Harboring a known fugitive in your home, being a lookout during a crime, or lying to police is an aiding and abetting a crime
A natural reaction that many may have when hearing the news of someone being arrested is to automatically assume that he or she is guilty of the crime that person is accused of.
However, there are often many gray areas where the interpretation of one's actions, as opposed to actual empirical evidence, is the basis of an arrest. Such judgments can often be incorrect.
Take the crime of aiding and abetting. By definition, a person can be an accessory to the commission of a crime if that person provides advice, assistance, or financial support to the crime’s perpetrators without actually being present when the offense is committed.
One who offers a means of escape or concealment to criminal offenders or hinders the search for them might also be considered an accessory after the fact.
Leaving the entrance of a place of employment unlocked or unguarded, allowing another person, who intends to rob it with clear entry, is aiding and abetting in that crime. In this case, that person’s actions, or lack of action, facilitated in the crime being committed.
While not present when it happened, an argument may be made that minus his or her alleged involvement, no crime would have occurred.
A criminal defense lawyer can argue, however, that one cannot aid and abet a crime accidentally. To be found guilty, it must be shown that a crime was committed, that the accused accessory had prior knowledge of the crime, and that he or she intentionally assisted in its commission.
Accidental actions or oversights do not qualify as aiding and abetting, nor can one simply be determined guilty by association.
Simply knowing a crime will take place, and doing nothing to stop it, may be considered aiding and abetting. Yet one who has such knowledge may be able to disassociate himself or herself from the illegal activity by taking measures to stop it.
The criteria for criminal disassociation may differ from state to state, but in general, alerting the potential victims or law enforcement officials of possible crime typically qualifies.