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What Is Considered Aiding and Abetting?

Don’t be a Partner in Crime

As a child, you probably heard the saying, “If your friends jumped off a bridge, would you?”

We ask, “If your friend asked you to help them break the law, would you?”

Well, if your answer to the second question is “yes,” the information below may cause you to think twice before you become a party to a crime. If you get caught, you’ll be charged as if you committed the crime yourself.

Party to a Crime Law in Wisconsin

In Wisconsin, you don’t have to physically commit a crime to be charged with one. If you intentionally aid and abet the commission of a crime, you may be charged with and convicted of the crime, nonetheless. The person who actually committed the crime may or may not get charged with or convicted of the offense.

Simply put, aiding and abetting the commission of a crime is just as serious as committing the crime. For instance, if you were on lookout duty while your friend robs a bank, you AND your friend could get charged with robbery. But you would likely get charged with aiding and abetting, as well.

In addition, you could be considered a party to a conspiracy if you advise, hire, or counsel another person to commit a crime. If your friend’s partner cheated on them and you advise your friend to vandalize and destroy the cheating partner’s car, you and your friend could get in legal trouble.

Difference Between Aiding and Abetting

Generally speaking, the difference between aiding and abetting is that aiding refers to helping someone commit a crime while abetting is encouraging or inducing someone to commit a crime. These acts are both illegal.

Referring to the example above, it would be abetting to encourage your friend to trash their cheating partner’s car. If you supply the baseball bat, graffiti, and runaway car, that would be considered aiding.

Aiding and Abetting Elements

If you aid and abet a crime, you are equally responsible for the crime committed and its consequences as the person who physically committed the crime. With this in mind, the elements of aiding and abetting include:

  • Assisting the person who directly commits the crime
  • Being ready and willing to assist the person who directly commits the crime, and such person is knowledgeable about the willingness to assist

In other words, engaging in conduct with a conscious desire that it will help another person commit a crime is aiding and abetting. Keep in mind that a bystander or spectator is not considered an intentional aider and abettor. If you’re visiting your uncle for the weekend and he sells drugs out of his outside shed, you wouldn’t be considered an aider and abettor because your presence in his home does not subject you to criminal liability. In addition, you do not have to be directly at the scene to be considered an aider and abettor. Driving a getaway car could subject you to charges, for example.

As such, to convict a person under the aiding and abetting theory, prosecutors have the burden of proving the following elements:

  • The defendant consciously intended to engage in conduct that would aid another in the execution of a crime
  • The defendant’s conduct objectively aided another person in the execution of the crime
  • The defendant was ready and willing to render aid if needed

We Can Defend Your Freedom

If you’re facing charges for aiding and abetting in Wisconsin, our criminal defense attorney can fight for your rights. We believe that you shouldn’t be held responsible for a crime you didn’t actually commit yourself, which is why you can count on us to go the extra mile to help you get reduced or dismissed charges.

Call us anytime at (414) 882-8382 to schedule your free consultation!