NRS 195.020 is the Nevada law that makes accomplices liable for the crimes they help commit. Knowingly aiding and abetting others to break the law carries the same penalties as actually breaking the law. Common examples of being an accomplice are keeping a lookout during a crime or being a getaway driver.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is aiding and abetting in Nevada?
- 2. What are some examples of aiding and abetting?
- 3. How many years do you get for aiding and abetting?
- 4. How is conspiracy different?
- 5. How do I fight accomplice liability charges under NRS 195.020?
1. What is aiding and abetting in Nevada?
Nevada’s legal definition of aiding and abetting is helping, counseling, or encouraging another person(s) – called the principal – to commit a crime. People who aid or abet principals in criminal activity are called accomplices.1
2. What are some examples of aiding and abetting?
Actions that may qualify as aiding and abetting a criminal offense include:
- Keeping a lookout at the scene of a crime while the principal shoplifts;
- Acting as the getaway driver after a bank robbery;
- Providing someone the combination to a safe intending for that person to use the combination to steal from the safe; or
- Giving someone tools intending for that person to use them to burglarize a house.
In short, assisting with the commission of a Nevada crime counts as “aiding and abetting”. Merely providing information counts if the accomplice knows the principal will use it to break the law.
3. How many years do you get for aiding and abetting?
In most cases in Nevada, aiding and abetting carries the same punishment as the underlying crime that the defendant helped to carry out.2 For example, someone who aided and abetted a robbery would receive the standard robbery sentence of two to 15 years in Nevada State Prison.
The main exception to this rule is second-degree kidnapping (NRS 200.310). Principals convicted of second-degree kidnapping face two to 15 years in Nevada State Prison and a possible fine of up to $15,000. In contrast, accomplices to 2nd degree kidnapping face the same potential prison sentence but no fine.3
Note that federal laws for accomplice liability are largely similar to Nevada law: Defendants suspected of aiding and abetting a federal crime are charged with the underlying crime they allegedly helped the principal(s) to carry out.4
4. How is conspiracy different?
A conspiracy (NRS 199.480) is when two or more people agree to participate in a crime together. Just making the agreement qualifies as criminal conspiracy. It does not matter whether the conspirators are successful in carrying out the crime.
In contrast, a person may be convicted of aiding and abetting without having made a prior agreement.
Example: Zack knows that his friend Mike is about to burglarize a house in Reno. Zack decides to stand outside to keep watch so he can call Mike if he sees the police approaching. If caught, Mike and Zack could both be booked at the Washoe Detention Center for burglary (NRS 205.060) – Mike for committing the burglary, and Zack for aiding and abetting. However, they should not be charged with conspiracy because Mike never agreed with Zack that he would keep watch.
5. How do I fight accomplice liability charges under NRS 195.020?
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 knowingly facilitate the crime, he/she is not liable for aiding or abetting.
- The crime has already been committed. Helping a known criminal after the crime took place is not aiding and abetting. However, prosecutors could instead bring charges for being an accessory after the fact (NRS 195.030).
- No knowledge of the crime. A person cannot be guilty of aiding and abetting a crime if he/she has no knowledge that the principal was committing a 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 defendant withdrew from the crime. People who initially plan to aid and abet a crime may be able to escape accomplice liability as long as they notify everyone that they are no longer participating and do 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 criminal case could be dropped.
Accused of aiding and abetting in California? Learn about California laws for aiding and abetting.
- Nevada Revised Statute 195.020. See also State v. Plunkett, (2018) 429 P.3d 936, 134 Nev. Adv. Rep. 88. See also Desai v. State, (207) 133 Nev. 339, 398 P.3d 889, 133 Nev. Adv. Rep. 48.
- NRS 195.020.
- NRS 200.340.
- 18 U.S.C. 2.
- NRS 199.480.