Nevada law draws no distinction between accomplices to a crime and the people who physically commit the crime. Therefore, aiding and abetting someone else to break the law usually carries the same penalties as if the accomplice him/herself committed the underlying crime.
This article provides an overview of the law of, defenses to, and penalties for “aiding and abetting” criminal activity in Nevada. Keep reading to learn how our Nevada criminal defense attorneys fight accomplice charges.
Definition of “Aiding and Abetting” in Nevada
The legal definition of “aiding and abetting” in Nevada law is helping, counseling, or encouraging another person(s) to commit a crime. People who aid or abet are commonly called accomplices. Common examples of aiding and abetting are:
- “keeping a lookout” while another person carries out a crime
- acting as a false alibi
- providing information to someone to help him/her carry out a crime
Under Nevada law, accomplices to a crime are the same as principals, which is the legal term for the people responsible for committing a crime. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Bill drives Ted to a Henderson grocery store. Ted then announces that he is going to rob the store. Bill stays until Ted comes out and drives him away. The Henderson police eventually catch up with Ted and Bill and book them at the Henderson Detention Center for the Nevada crime of robbery. Even though Bill did not physically rob the store himself, he still faces the same robbery charges as Ted because he knowingly helped Ted by driving the getaway car.
If Ted never told Bill he was going to rob the store, then Bill should not be held liable for robbery. As long as Bill had no idea Ted had just carried out the robbery, it would not be “aiding and abetting” for Bill to wait for Ted and drive him away. Merely being present at a crime scene is not sufficient to invite criminal liability.
Similarly, if Ted had told Bill about the robbery but Bill refused to wait and drive him away, Bill should not be convicted of robbery then either. Mere knowledge of a crime does not amount to aiding and abetting. Neither does Bill have a duty to inform the police about the robbery. Only select professionals such as educators and physicians have a legal duty to report certain offenses such as the Nevada crime of
Note that accomplices are also liable for crimes that are foreseeable consequences to the underlying crime they help execute. So if Ted in the above example had a gun and Bill knew that, then Bill would face murder charges if Ted shoots the cashier dead. It is irrelevant if Bill did not mean for anyone to die. Helping a robber with a gun could foreseeably lead to homicide.
Aiding and Abetting v. Conspiracy
Aiding and abetting is fundamentally different from the Nevada crime of conspiracy. Two or more people commit a conspiracy if they agree to participate in a crime together. In contrast, someone may be liable for aiding and abetting without having made a prior agreement. North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse illustrates the distinction:
Zack knows that his friend Mike is about to burglarize a house. Zack decides to stand outside to keep watch so he can call Mike if he sees the Reno police approaching. If caught, Mike and Zack could both be booked at the Washoe Detention Center on charges for the Nevada crime of burglary. However, they should not be charged with conspiracy because Mike never agreed with Zack that he would keep a watch.
Had Zack and Mike in the above example made a prior agreement to help each other burglarize the house, then they would be liable for conspiracy as well as burglary.
Federal aiding and abetting law (18 U.S.C § 2):
Federal law prohibits aiding and abetting as well. And as with Nevada, defendants suspected of aiding and abetting are charged with the underlying crimes they allegedly helped others carry out.
Defenses to aiding and abetting in Nevada
There are many possible strategies for fighting charges of aiding and abetting a crime in Nevada. The following are some of the more common defenses:
- No aiding or abetting. Just because someone knows about a crime or is in the presence of a crime scene does not make that person an accomplice. As long as the defendant did not facilitate the crime, he/she is not liable for aiding or abetting.
- No knowledge of the crime. A person cannot be guilty of aiding and abetting a crime if he/she has no knowledge of the crime. If the prosecutor cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt the defendant knew or should have known of the underlying crime, then the charges should be dismissed.
- The crime has already been committed. It is not considered “aiding and abetting” to help someone after he/she has already committed a crime (such as hiding them from the police). However, knowingly helping an alleged criminal can open the person to charges for being an accessory after the fact in Nevada.
- The defendant withdrew from the crime. Someone who initially plans to aid and abet a crime can escape accomplice liability as long as 1) he/she notifies everyone that he/she is no longer participating, and 2) he/she does everything possible to prevent the crime from happening, such as tipping off the police. If the defense attorney can show that the defendant properly withdrew before aiding and abetting a crime, the case should be dropped.
Other defenses include that the defendant was falsely accused or that the state has insufficient evidence to justify a guilty verdict.
Penalties for aiding and abetting in Nevada
In most cases in Nevada, aiding and abetting carries the same punishment as the underlying crime that the defendant helped to carry out. So, for example, someone who aided and abetted a robbery would receive the standard robbery sentence of two to fifteen (2 – 15) years in prison.
The main exception to this rule is the Nevada crime of second-degree kidnapping. Second-degree kidnapping carries a sentence of two to fifteen years (2 – 15) in Nevada State Prison and a possible fine of up to $15,000. In contrast, aiding and abetting someone else to commit second-degree kidnapping carries just the two-to-fifteen (2 – 15) year prison sentence and no possible fine.
Arrested for aiding and abetting? Call a lawyer for help . . . .
If you have been charged with aiding and abetting a crime in Nevada, call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys for a free consultation. We may be able to get the charges reduced or dismissed. We are also experienced trial attorneys ready to fight zealously in front of a jury for your innocence.
We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight, and Tonopah.
Learn about California laws for aiding and abetting.