Accomplices, Accessories, Aiders, and Abettors 101

Posted on by New Mexico Criminal Law Offices

Accused of assisting with a crime in New Mexico? You Need an Experienced Criminal Defense Team on Your Side

gavelEvery state and federal statute has one hidden feature: Casual accomplices and the primary defendants both can face similar punishment.

The state of New Mexico classifies criminals in many forms, including the principal offender, accomplice, accessory, aider, abettor, and the conspirator. These classifications depend on the person’s role in the crime. The primary offender is the person who commits the crime or intends to commit the crime.  However, the definitions become muddled when it moves down the line and examines accomplices, aiders, and the like.

What is an Accomplice?

Assisting persons who directly assist the principal offender are accomplices. An accomplice intentionally helps the principal offender to commit the crime, and knows what they are doing is wrong. Even if the accomplice does not carry out the criminal act, the law considers all pre-crime assistance enough for accomplice status.

The prosecution must prove that the accomplice intentionally aided the primary offender in the commission of the crime before, during, or after the actual criminal act. Realizing that the principal intends to commit a crime and not stopping them could constitute accomplice-like acts, as well.

The More Complicated Assistant Definitions

Once you pass as an accomplice, the definitions and classifications become more involved. All it takes is a single act or non-action to differentiate a person from one classification into the other. Some standard assistant definitions include:

  • Aider and Abettor – The aider and abettor is the principal in the second degree. They were present at the crime scene but carried out a passive role. Their role, however, ensured the crime was carried out. For example, a person watching out for witnesses during a bank robbery would be an aider and abettor.
  • Accessory Before the Fact – An accessory before the fact is a category of an accomplice who helps before the crime. They were not present at the crime scene but helped the principal prepare for the criminal act.
  • Accessory After the Fact – Accessory after the fact is the person who knows the principal committed a felony and helped them avoid arrest or trial. They did not know about the crime or help prepare but instead help avoid prosecution. An accessory after the fact is not as harshly punished as an accessory before the fact or an aider and abettor.
  • Conspirator – Conspirators can consist of one or more people who agree to commit a criminal act together. Conspirators are all principals; therefore, they do not assist. Instead, they decide to commit a crime together. This is a high controversial charge, however, because a conspirator does not have to commit the crime or follow through with the act.

Avoid the Harsh Punishments of Helping with a Crime

In New Mexico, the crime of aiding and abetting means you have contributed to carry out a criminal offense.

The punishment for this offense is severe; therefore, it is best if you speak with a criminal defense attorney. Aiding or abetting a criminal act could result in a range of punishments, including a misdemeanor offense, jail time, and possibly a prison sentence if you help with a felony act.

To avoid such harsh penalties, speak with an attorney from New Mexico Criminal Law Offices. We offer vigorous defenses and free case evaluations. There is no obligation to meet with our professionals, so call us today at 505-375-4763 or reach out to us online with your legal questions.