Aiding, Abetting and Conspiracy – What is the difference in these terms?
It is quite common to hear the terms “aiding”, “abetting” and “conspiracy” used in legal settings, especially in a court of law. People do get confused as to the meaning of the terms, particularly aiding and abetting because they think they mean the same thing. The words are used by prosecutors and each one refers to the increasing severity of the charge. They do refer to the fact that there are more people involved in the perpetration of a crime than the main persons and that these charges are extra.
Aiding and abetting mean that those charged with this crime are charged with assisting in a crime although they didn’t actually commit the crime. For example, driving the getaway car for a bank robber can be considered aiding and abetting because they did not do anything to prevent the robbery.
Conspiracy, on the other hand, can be laid as a charge even if an actual crime did not take place. It refers to a plan that has been prepared for a possible crime, those involved in making the plan can be charged for conspiracy.
Aiding and abetting are also used as charges for those who did not commit a crime, but in this case a crime did occur. The person charged in this type of case is often called the accomplice. An accomplice is defined as a person who does take part in a crime in some way without actually being there at the time it occurred. The person who drives the car in a bank robbery was not in the bank at the time, did not point a gun or make threats and did not handle the money. Yet this person is just as guilty as the one that did.
Accessory is another term often used in the charge of aiding and abetting. Because this person is not actually present at the scene of the crime, the charge is less than that of the main person.
Aiding, abetting and conspiracy are all charges that are punishable by law. The prosecutor presents his/her case and it is up to the judge or jury to decide whether or not the person charged is guilty of one of these offences. Neither of the three is a crime in and of itself. The only time that the police find out about the other people involved is through questioning the person who is arrested or a person who is being questioned talks. Even if the criminal was killed at the scene, those who were the accomplices can still be charged.