CONSPIRACY, AIDING AND ABETTING, and ACCESSORY AFTER THE FACT
If you are involved in a crime with another person, then there are three possible crimes you can be charged with; Conspiracy; Aiding and Abetting; or Accessory after the fact.
The difference between these three charges is simply timing.
Conspiracy refers to agreements made before the commission of the crime.
Legally speaking, the terms “aid” and “abet” are redundant because they mean the same thing: they both mean that you are assisting another in the commission of a crime.
Likewise, if you have been charged with accessory after the fact, it means that you have been charged with assisting a criminal. However, this time it does not mean that you assisted with the commission of the crime, but specifically with assisting the criminal after the commission of the crime.
The most important thing to remember if you have been charged with a “aiding and abetting” is that Nevada law makes no distinction between the person who commits a crime and anyone who aids and abets with that crime. In other words, you will be facing the same penalties as the person who committed the crime.
Conspiracy – “Conspiracy” in Nevada is defined as an agreement between two or more persons for an unlawful purpose.” In other words, if two or more people agree to commit a crime, they can be charged with conspiracy.
Nevada law for conspiracy differs from Federal law in that the Federal law requires that the prosecutor prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the alleged conspirator committed an “overt act” in furtherance of the intended crime. Nevada law does not require the “overt act” element.
If you are wondering what constitutes an “overt act,” just know that the language is intentionally vague so that prosecutors can look for any act that you may have done as part of the conspiracy, and argue that it was an “overt act.”
Aiding and Abetting – The legal definition of “aiding and abetting” is assisting, encouraging, counseling, or helping another person to commit a crime. Those who assist others in the commission of a crime are often commonly referred to as “accomplices,” and the fact that they are charged with “aiding and abetting” is known as “accomplice liability.”
Some common forms of aiding and abbetting are:
- Acting as a lookout;
- Driving a person to or from the scene of a crime;
- Hiding stolen goods gained from the commission of a crime;
- Lying to the police on behalf of the perpetrator;
- Providing information or supplies to help the perpetrator of a crime carry out the crime.
Accessory After the Fact – “Accessory after the fact” is a legal term that describes anyone who assists an alleged criminal escape prosecution or sentencing for past crimes. Some examples of “accessory after the fact:”
- Concealing the alleged criminal;
- Destroying, hiding, or disposing of evidence of a crime;
- Assisting a fugitive avoid capture;
- Providing the poice with false information regarding an alleged criminal.
There are a few related offenses that may also be charged:
- Offering False Evidence;
- Resisting Arrest;
- Obstructing police.
Conspiracy – The punishment for conspiracy in Nevada depends on what crime you were allegedly conspiring to commit.
- In Nevada, conspiracy is a category B felony, carrying a sentence of 1-6 years in prison, if you were conspiring to commit:
- Murder (which carries a stricter penalty of 2-10 years in Nevada State Prison and a possbile fine of up to $5,000);
- Sexual assault;
- Kidnapping in the first or second degree;
- Arson in the first or second degree;
- Using another person’s ID to harm or impersonate them;
- Human trafficking;
- Sex trafficiking;
- Involuntary servitude;
- Racketeering (which carries with it a sentence of 5-20 years in prison and fines up to $25,000)
- Conspiracy to commit any other crime, other than those listed above, is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada, which carries with it a sentence of up to 364 days in Clark County Detention Center and/or fines up to $2,000. Some common conspiracies include:
- Committing any act injurious to the public health or morals, trade or commerce, or for the perversion or corruption of public justice or the administration of justice;
- Cheating or defrauding another out of any property by unlawful or fraudulent means; or
- Accomplishing any criminal or unlawful purpose, or any lawful purpose by criminal or unlawful means;
Aiding and Abetting – Nevada makes no distinction between accomplices and principals when it comes to crimes. This means that in most cases, the penalty for “aiding and abetting” a crime is the same as the underlying crime (there is one main exception – aiding and abetting second degree kidnapping carries with it the same term of incarceration as the underlying crime but the underlying crime also carries a fine of up to $15,000, while aiding and abetting carries no possible fine).
If you have been charged with aiding and abetting, you could be facing probation, fines, and possibly even prison time. If you think you are in a position to be charged with aiding and abetting a crime, you should contact an attorney.
Accessory After the Fact – If you have been charged as an “Accessory after the fact,” the penalties depend on what crime you were an accessory to, as well as what other crimes you were charged with:
- Acting as an accessory to a felony is usually charged as a category C felony in Nevada carrying with it a 1-5 year sentence in a Nevada State Prison and up to $10,000 in fines;
- Acting as an accessory to a gross misdemeanor is generally charged as misdemeanor, carrying with it a sentence of between 30 days and 6 months in jail and/or between $100 and $500 in fines;
- Offering false evidence is a category D felony carrying a sentence of between 1 and 4 years in prison, and possible fines up to $5,000;
- Resisting arrest is a misdemeanor, carrying a sentence of up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines;
- Obstructing a police officer is a misdemeanor carrying a sentence of up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
Please Note: All of the above crimes may lead to deportment if the underlying crime was one of moral turpitude, or other deportable crime.
Conspiracy – Conspiracy is often a very difficult crime to prosecute because of the difficulty in providing evidence of the agreement. Some common defenses include:
- No agreement – The prosecutor must demonstrate that you were an actual party to an agreement to commit a crime. If you merely knew of an agreement to commit a crime, or you have discussed an agreement to commit a crime, but were not actully part of the agreement, then the charges should be dropped;
- Insufficient evidence – If there is not enough reliable evidence to show that you were party to the agreement, then the charges should be dropped;
- Inadmissible evidence – If the charges against you stem from evidence obtained by way of an illegal search, then the evidence should not be admitted and the charges should be dropped;
- Entrapment – If you were coaxed into becoming a party to a conspiracy that you otherwise would not have been a party to, then you may have a defense to the conspiracy charge.
Please Note: Nevada does not require that both parties to a conspiracy intend to commit the crime. In other words, it does not matter if one of the parties to the conspiracy was an undercover police officer. So long as you willingly became a party to the agreement, you can still be charged and convicted of conspiracy.
Aiding and Abetting – There are a number of possible defenses that may apply if you have been charged with aiding and abetting a crime. You should consult with an attorney as soon as you learn of the possible charges.
- No aiding and abetting – Knowledge of a crime or presence at a crime scene does not automatically make you an accomplice. So long as you did not facilitate the crime, you were not aiding or abetting.
- No knowledge of the crime – You cannot be guilty of aiding and abetting a crime if you had no knowledge of the crime. In other words, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew, or should have known, of the underlying crime, then the charges should have been dropped.
- No intent to aid and abet – If you did not know that you were aiding and abetting in a crime, or had no intent to help, then the charges should be dropped.
- The crime has already been committed – In Nevada, if you knowingly assisted a criminal after the commission of a crime, you can only be charged with the crime of accessory after the fact, not for aiding and abetting.
- The defendant withdrew from the crime – If you initially plan to aid and abet a crime, you can still avoid accomplice liability if you 1) notify everyone involved in the crime that you are no longer participating, and 2) do everything in your power to prevent the crime from happening (this can even include tipping off the police).
- There was no crime – If you are charged with aiding and abetting a crime, then there must have been an underlying crime. If there was no underlying crime, then you cannot be convicted of aiding and abetting said crime.
- False accusation – If you were falsely accused, you have a defense to charges of aiding and abetting.
- Insufficient evidence – The prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you aided and abetted a crime. If there is not enough evidence to prove that you aided and abetted a crime, then the charges should be dropped.
Accessory After the Fact – As with Conspiracy and Aiding and Abetting, there are a few different defenses to a charge of Accessory after the fact.
- Lack of Knowledge – Accessory after the fact requires that you knew you were assisting a someone after they committed a crime. If it cannot be proved that you knew the person had committed a crime, or that you knew you were helping them escape prosecution, the charges should be dropped;
- Bystander – Simply witnessing or knowing of a crime and doing nothing about it does not make you an Accessory. So long as you undertook no action to help the alleged criminal, and so long as there was no legal duty for you to report your knowledge, then the charges should be dropped;
- Duress – If you were threatened with imminent and serious harm, then your actions to avoid that harm cannot incur conspiracy charges (duress is not, however, a defense to the crime of murder in Nevada);
- False accusation/Mistaken Identity – If you were not the person who actually assisted the alleged criminal, then the prosecutor should not be able to prove that you were an accessory;
- Insufficient evidence – The prosecutor must be able to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you were an accessory. If there is not enough evidence to prove every element beyond a reasonable doubt, then the charges should be dropped.
If you have been charged with any of the previous offenses, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss possible penalties and defenses.