Difference Among Aiding, Abetting, and Being an Accessory to a Crime

Difference Among Aiding, Abetting, and Being an Accessory to a Crime

Criminal activities in Canada have been on the rise. A person can commit many different crimes and be charged as a criminal by the law. However, it is even worse to be accused as a criminal as an accessory to a crime.

Helping someone else commit a crime could be even worse than the actual criminal act. A person who assists a criminal act is termed many different names. Just like an accessory supporting a crime, aiding and abetting are two other types of assistance to illegal activities.

We can understand, all these can seem too overwhelming. It is essential to know the difference among aiding, abetting, and being an accessory to a crime so that you do not unknowingly end up helping someone commit a crime.

Difference Among Aiding, Abetting, and Being an Accessory to a Crime

Before going deep into the differences among the three criminal assistances, we need to understand the definitions. The three definitions have many overlaps among them. Therefore, we will see some examples along with the definitions to understand the terminologies better.


Like any other country, aiding and abetting Canada go side by side. Many people think that the two have a similar meaning. But that is not the case.

As the word generally suggests, aiding means to support another person to commit a crime. This involves providing a criminal with actual assistance, support, and help to commit a serious crime.

A person may not have committed a crime. However, aiding refers to being directly involved with a crime. A prevalent and severe example of aiding a crime is providing the criminal with information and equipment to murder someone else.


Abet means to encourage a person to do something. Therefore, abetting is the provocation and motivation thrown towards someone to entice him or her to commit a crime.

Being charged with abetting can be a bit confusing to figure out. It is also tricky to prove that the person was guilty of abetting.

A typical example of abetting a crime would be a regular bar fight scenario. Frequently, one person can be found provoking the other to an extreme point where the other person loses his or her cool.

Furthermore, abetting can be associated with suicide as well. Bullying someone to commit suicide can bring abetting charges against the bully. In addition, a person can mentally provoke someone to commit suicide by claiming the act to be an exciting experience. This is as hideous as it sounds.

Accessory to a Crime

An accessory to a crime is a unique person who both aids and abets a criminal in the principle of committing a crime. An accessory usually supports the criminal before and after the criminal act takes place.

To exemplify, an accessory to a crime usually assists the offense and helps the person flee or get out of the situation in the aftermath of the crime.

Common Characteristics of Aiding, Abetting and Being an Accessory to a Crime

When a person commits a crime, he or she is called the “Principle”. On the other hand, someone who helps the principle is called the “Accomplice”. Everyone who acts as an accomplice to a crime can be charged with aiding, abetting, or being an accessory.

All three charges require lawyers to prove the accomplice’s crime. Therefore, there are a few similarities among these three charges.

Knowing and assisting the crime

There could be people knowing about the crime after it takes place. There could be people knowing and disapproving of the crime. But a person helping a principle committing the crime can be charged with aiding, abetting, and being an accessory.

Let us see an example. Suppose a friend of yours kills someone in a car accident due to drunk driving while you were the co-driver. Right after the accident takes place, you take the wheels and drive you two to flee the place of the incident. Here, you knew vehicular manslaughter and assisted the crime after it happened. Therefore, you will be charged with any of the three charges in the discussion.

Criminal conspiracy

Aiding and abetting criminal code also includes criminal conspiracy. This is when the charges brought against you are severe. The state can charge you with conspiracy when you are significantly involved with the planning and execution of the crime.

Conspiracy is a serious crime. If you are involved with such an act, you can be seriously charged with being an accessory to a crime. This can get you aiding and abetting murder sentence if proven guilty.

Punishment of Aiding and Abetting a Crime

Aiding and abetting a crime is a serious criminal fault. You may be charged with either accessory before the act or after the act crimes.

If you are charged with being an accessory of a crime before the act, it may not make much of a change. You can claim that you did not commit the crime. However, you will be charged with the same penalties as the criminal.

On the other hand, is charged with accessory after the criminal act means that you played your part in committing the crime. Therefore, you will be charged as a criminal. Moreover, you will face punishment an actual criminal would face for the offense.


In conclusion, the margin is extremely thin when committing and being part of a crime. Knowing and assisting a person to a criminal act is almost as same as actually committing the crime. The difference among aiding, abetting, and being an accessory to a crime is highly minimal. If you are still confused, you should immediately consult an experienced attorney. If you have been charged with any of these offenses, Canadian law can punish you with severe penalties.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it illegal to encourage someone else to commit a crime?

Yes, it is illegal to encourage someone else to commit a crime. It is considered aiding and abetting. Some common examples of encouraging a crime can be asking a person to do something illegal, hiring a professional criminal for a crime, or not preventing a crime from happening in front of you.

2. What about providing information or equipment?

Providing someone with information or equipment that can result in a criminal act is an aiding and abetting crime. However, this is only true if you knew that these could be used to commit a crime.

3. What about intervening to help someone else commit the offense?

Undoubtedly, intervening to help someone else commit the offense is similar to committing the crime. For instance, a person holding another person while the criminal beats the person is a serious aiding and abetting a crime.

4. Is acting as a “lookout” aiding and abetting a crime?

Yes, it is considered as aiding and abetting a crime. Suppose someone is acting as a “lookout”. In that case, that person is genuinely helping the criminal to commit the offense and get away with it.

5. Are “get-away” drivers aiding and abetting?

Somewhere in between the above discussion, it has been mentioned that a person helping another person to flee a scenario of vehicular manslaughter is a prime example of aiding and abetting. So yes, acting as a “get-away” from an incident of crime is an accessory to a crime.




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