Punishment for Aiding and Abetting in Texas

The purpose of criminal law is to identify conduct that society wants to prevent, and punish those individuals who violate the law by engaging in the prohibited conduct. Aiding and abetting laws take it a step further by recognizing the fact that a person who assists another individual in committing or concealing a crime should be punished for his or her role even though the second individual might not have committed the original criminal act.

Texas Aiding and Abetting Laws

Chapter 7 of the Texas Penal Code makes a person liable for the criminal acts committed by another individual. The Code begins by abolishing the distinction between an accomplice and a principal actor when it comes to criminal activity.

If you supply a gun to someone knowing that it will be used to commit a robbery you might be charged with commission of the robbery itself. Aiding and abetting another person in the commission of a crime may include:

  • Causing or aiding an otherwise innocent person to engage in criminal conduct
  • Soliciting, encouraging, directing, aiding or attempting to aid another person in the commission of a criminal act
  • Failing to take reasonable efforts to prevent the commission of a criminal act if, as in the case of a police officer, it is that person’s legal duty to do so

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Prohibited Conduct or Actions

The statute making it a crime to knowingly assist or aid someone in the commission of a crime is rather broad in the language it uses to define what is prohibited. As a result, there are many forms of conduct that you could engage in that might result your being charged with committing a crime that was actually committed by someone else. Examples might include the following:

  • Driving another person to or from the location where a crime is committed
  • Helping to hide a person who is wanted by the police
  • Receiving property known to be stolen in order to hide it from the police
  • Lying to the police to prevent them from discovering the identity of the person who actually committed a crime
  • Providing money, equipment or information to aid in the commission or concealment of criminal activity

You may be charged without even being at the location where the crime is being committed. You might also be charged for giving assistance to a person who commits a crime whether you do it before, during or after the criminal act. For instance, lending your car to someone you know is aiding and abetting if it is to be used to commit a robbery or to elude the police weeks after the actual crime.

Violations of Federal Law

Aiding and abetting committed in Harris County might be a violation of federal law as well as state law. Under the federal statute, it is possible for someone to be charged with committing a crime even though the actual criminal act was committed by another person.

Knowingly assisting another person to commit or conceal a crime is prosecuted, in the federal courts, as the equivalent of committing the actual criminal act. In other words, an employee who draws a diagram of the vault area of the bank at which he or she works may face the same charges as those who use it to rob the bank.

Punishment for Aiding and Abetting

A person assisting someone to commit, escape from or conceal a criminal act may be charged with committing that criminal act. The punishment you receive for assisting can be the same as the punishment imposed upon the person who actually committed the crime.

Something to bear in mind is that helping a friend might not seem like a big deal, but if the friend ends up committing a felony, you could be facing serious penalties. Because you could be charged with commission of the same felony, you could be sentenced to serve time in prison or pay substantial fines if you are convicted.

Defenses to Aiding and Abetting

Under state law in Texas, it is no defense to a charge of aiding and abetting that the person who actually committed the criminal act was never charged with the crime or was acquitted of the charge. You can still be charged even if the person committing the crime was immune from prosecution or was convicted of a different criminal offense.

Of course, giving assistance without knowing that the other person to whom it is offered will use it to commit a crime might be a defense to a charge of aiding and abetting. The availability of such a defense will depend on the facts of each case and the evidence available to prove them.

Houston Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

Avoiding the dire consequences can accompany a conviction for aiding and abetting someone in the commission of a crime might depend upon your cooperating with law enforcement and prosecutors. A Houston criminal defense attorney might be your best source of guidance and legal advice in that regard.

If you have been accused of aiding and abetting criminal activity, call (713) 868-6100 to speak with an experienced attorney at The Law Office of Matthew D. Sharp today to help preserve your rights and freedom.