What are aiding and abetting and accessory before the fact?

In Mississippi, “aiding and abetting” and “accessory before the fact” are how you can be charged with a crime when you didn’t even do it.  

If you “help” someone to commit a crime, that is, you know of someone’s plan to commit a crime, and you do something to help them commit it, you have “aided and abetted” them.  Even if you were not present when the crime was committed, if the government can show that you had knowledge of the crime before or after the fact, and you assisted in it through advice, actions, or financial support, then you can be charged with aiding and abetting.    “Accessory Before the Fact” is closely-related.  The government must show that you planned, arranged for, or counseled or commanded another person to commit a felony, but were not present when the felony was committed by the other person.  These two crimes are also known as “accomplice liability.”

Examples of aiding and abetting:

  • driving the getaway car
  • watching and doing nothing to stop your friends from assaulting someone
  • filling illegal prescriptions for a relative

Examples of accessory before the fact:

  • buying and/or supplying the weapon used in the robbery
  • telling the burglar which doors are unlocked 

In 2005, the Mississippi Supreme Court explained the distinction in these two crimes, holding that “Aiding and abetting and acting as an accessory-before-the-fact are two wholly distinct crimes. The primary difference is that if a person is actually or constructively present at the offense, due to his participation, he is an aider and abettor; if not present, he is an accessory-before-the-fact.” Dilworth v. State, 909 So.2d 731, 734 (Miss. 2005). 

If you aided and abetted in the commission of the offense, it is the law that you are “just as guilty under the law as if [you] had committed the whole crime with [your] own hand.” Id.  And you can be punished the same as well.

This law firm will aggressively defends all criminal matters, no matter how the government says you are involved.  Call Clarence immediately for the best possible results.