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Aiding and Abetting and Acting in Concert

New York law imposes criminal liability, referred to as accessorial liability, on individuals who may have not actually committed a crime but the law determines are responsible for the crime nonetheless. New York Law does not distinguish between an individual who plays a minor role in carrying out a crime and an individual who only plays a minor role in carrying out that crime.

Under the New York Penal law, §20.00, if a person acts with the mental state required to commit the offense (for example with the intent to commit the offense) and he requests or solicits another person to commit the crime or intentionally assists in the commission of the crime, that person may be charged with the commission of the crime, even though he didn’t commit the crime himself or herself.


Accessorial liability for criminal conduct can apply to many different types of charges. Common examples may be the getaway driver in a bank robbery or the lookout in a residential burglary. However, the possibilities are endless and accessorial liability may apply any time a person acting with the same culpable mental state assists a person or requests that a person commit a crime.

It is important to understand that accessorial liability may exist completely independently of the person who committed the offense. For example, the getaway driver in a robbery or the look out in a burglary may be prosecuted regardless of whether or not the actual robber or the actual burglar was even caught or prosecuted. In addition, if the actual robber or burglar was a juvenile and so could not be prosecuted or was found to be not responsible due to a mental disease the, the accessory could still be prosecuted.

A Person Charged as an Accessory is not Charged With a Separate Crime They are Charged With The Crime That They Aided.

A person who is a lookout in an armed robbery will be charged with Robbery in the First Degree. The fact that that person is not the primary actor does not reduce the charges. However, there are lesser crimes that may apply for a person that does not necessarily have the same intent to commit the crime but who may have assisted or requested another to commit a crime. Examples of such crimes are Criminal Facilitation, Criminal Solicitation and Conspiracy.


In order to prove that a person in guilty of aiding or abetting a crime such as robbery, it is not enough to prove that the person requested or assisted in the commission of the crime. The prosecutor must also be able to prove that the person acted with same mens rea, or culpable mental state to have committed the crime. For example, it is not enough to prove that you were standing out on the street, looking up and down the block while your friend was burglarizing a store. The police and prosecutor must be able to prove that you were standing out there and looking up and down the street with the intent to burglarize the store and to help your friend do it and not get caught. Since the police cannot take an x-ray of your mind and no your intent with certainty, many of the surrounding circumstances may come into play.

Contact an experienced criminal attorney who understands the process, the charges and how to defend you. Accessorial liability can be complicated. Call today for a free consultation.

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