One of your co-workers commits fraud. It’s sloppy and they get caught and arrested. You knew about the scheme, but you’re glad you didn’t go along with it when you see how everything turns out.
Then the authorities begin looking in your direction, and you get this sinking feeling. They think you’re guilty of aiding and abetting. They want to bring you in on criminal charges.
Maybe you’re not quite as safe as you thought.
But what does aiding and abetting actually mean? When the crime happened, you were comfortably at home. You know you can’t be guilty of actually lending aid at the time, so what are they trying to accuse you of? Do they have a case?
No participation required
First and foremost, you should know that you don’t need to actually get involved in a direct role with the crime itself as it happens. You can still face charges if you directly helped the person who went on to break the law. You made it possible or at least made it easier. You contributed to that unlawful activity.
They may very well have a case. You could be found guilty if they can prove that you intentionally and willfully helped, offered counsel, gave commands or otherwise influenced the person to commit the crime.
You may consider what you did to be a peripheral action that didn’t break the law, but the authorities may not agree. You need to take these accusations seriously.
How it works
For example, perhaps your co-worker talked to you about the fraud before it took place, outlining the potential scheme. You saw a few problems with it and pointed out how you’d hypothetically do it, if you were to get involved.
Then your co-worker, who liked your idea, asked if you could offer some more assistance. Maybe he needed some of your computer records to pull it off. You didn’t directly give him the records, but you gave him the password to your computer, you told him where to find the records, and you told him to take care of it after you went home for the day.
You thought you were staying out of it, covering yourself by having him do it when you weren’t in the office, but the police could still argue that you provided counsel and advice and that you willfully helped him commit the crime by making it possible to access those records.
This is just a simple example; real cases can get very complex. The key, though, is to know that aiding and abetting is a serious accusation and that it’s time to look into all of your legal defense options if you fear criminal charges of your own.