Under Florida law, the term “aiding and abetting” can be misleading. In order to understand the legal concept of aiding and abetting, you must first understand the different categorizations of criminal conduct. If you commit a crime (let’s say robbery) and were the primary actor in that crime (you held the gun and demanded the money), you are considered to be the “principal in the first degree” of that crime. This means you were a primary actor in the crime and can be punished to the full extent of the law. However, Florida law does not limit the term to those who simply “hold the gun.” If you are someone who “aids, abets, counsels, hires, or otherwise procures such offense to be committed,” you are also considered a “principal in the first degree.”
Types of Aiding and Abetting
As discussed above, the first type of “aiding and abetting” is when you are actually involved in a criminal conspiracy, i.e., the getaway driver or the man who hired you to rob the bank. This type of “aiding and abetting” of the actual crime itself is not distinguishable from the person who actually commits the underlying offense. However, there are different types of aiding and abetting that are:
- Accessory before the fact: a person not immediately related to the principal who knows that a felony is going to be committed and who either aids or assists the principal in avoiding detection but is not present at the scene of the crime;
- Accessory after the fact: a person not immediately related to the principal who, knowing that a qualifying crime has been committed, aids the principal “with the intent that the offender avoids or escapes detection, arrest, trial, or punishment,” and
- Maintaining or Assisting: any person not falling into one of the above classifications that provides aid, either before or after an offense is committed, with the intent of protecting and assisting a principal.
Punishments for Aiding and Abetting
Florida law exempts “husband or wife, parent or grandparent, child or grandchild, [or] brother or sister” from categorization as either an accessory before the fact, accessory after the fact, or someone who maintains the principal. It is understood that most immediate family members should not be punished for attempting to protect a wayward relation. Misdemeanor offenses are also exempted. Accordingly, only those not related to a principal that commits a felony crime are punishable for aiding and abetting.
Further, your punishment for aiding and abetting depends on the nature of the crime committed. If the principal commits a capital offense, such as murder, then by assisting him or her in avoiding detection you are potentially guilty of a first-degree felony. However, if the principal commits a first-degree felony, such as rape, by assisting him or her you are potentially guilty of a second-degree felony and so forth.
Contact an Experienced St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Attorney Today
If you believe that you or a loved one may be implicated as an “accessory” for aiding and abetting in the greater Tampa Bay area, it is important to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who can analyze the facts of your case. The Khonsari Law Group has the attorneys you need to answer your questions and protect you throughout the criminal justice process. Contact them today for a free, confidential consultation online or at (727) 269-5300.