Being loyal is an admirable quality, but too much can get you into trouble. Recently, the Santa Clarita Sheriff Station made a post on their Facebook page detailing someone’s arrest and subsequent charge of felony aiding and abetting. The post reads:
“You’ve got to draw the line with your friends when it comes to upholding the law. Deputies were trying to a catch a suspect — the “suspect’s friend” found out we were looking for him, and tipped him off. Well, guess what? When we found out, we arrested “the friend” on felony charges of abetting a felon. Just because your friend is messing up their future, doesn’t mean you need to mess up yours.”
Aiding and abetting is covered under California Penal Code 31 PC. The law assigns responsibility to anyone who encourages, facilitates, or aids in the commission of a crime. PC 31 does not require that someone take a significant role in the commission of a crime, nor does it matter what the severity of the crime is. Examples include serving as a lookout, driving the getaway car, keeping the engine running in a vehicle, or, as in the example above, aiding someone in eluding the police.
Individuals do not need to be physically present at the location the crime is being committed, nor do they have to be legally capable of committing the crime itself. Instead, they must do something, however small, to instigate, encourage, or promote the commission of the crime.
The penalties for aiding and abetting are the same as those for the underlying crime that was instigated, encouraged, promoted, or facilitated. So, if someone is considered to have aided and abetted a murderer, they would be facing the same sentence as the primary suspect: 25 years to life. Those who aid and abet are not only equally responsible for the underlying crime, but also for any crimes committed that are “natural and probable consequences” of the original crime. For example, if someone aids and abets a robbery and someone is killed during the crime, the defendant who aided or abetted the crime will face robbery and murder charges regardless of whether or not the killing was intended or planned.