In most Wyoming criminal cases, the government brings charges against the person they believe committed the crime in question.
However, in some situations, prosecutors bring charges against someone they believe helped or encouraged another person to commit a crime.
The law refers to this as aiding and abetting or being an accessory before the fact. Aiding and abetting is just as serious as the underlying crime, and anyone facing these charges needs to take them seriously.
What Is Aiding and Abetting?
In Wyoming, helping or encouraging another person to commit a crime is a crime itself. Wyoming Statutes Section 6-1-201 refers to this as being an “accessory before the fact.”
Take, for example, a situation in which you hire a hitman to “off” their former spouse. In this situation, the hitman commits the crime of murder. In legal terms, the hitman is the principal in this situation.
However, the government could also charge you with being an accessory before the fact because you encouraged the hitman to commit the crime by offering to pay them. This is an example of aiding and abetting.
How Much Time Do You Get for Aiding and Abetting in Wyoming?
Aiding and abetting can be, but isn’t always, a very serious crime. Under Wyoming law, anyone who aids or abets another in committing a crime faces the same charges as the principal. To use the above example, if you hire a hitman to commit a murder, you could face first-degree murder charges yourself.
Many people are astonished to learn that the punishment for aiding and abetting is the same as the punishment for the underlying crime. Wyoming law provides that the government can bring charges against an aider and abettor before, after, or at the same time as the case against the principal.
You can even face aiding and abetting charges if the government decides not to prosecute the principal. For example, if the principal agrees to testify on behalf of the government in exchange for leniency, they may walk free while sending you to jail.
Aiding and Abetting Versus “Accessory After the Fact”
Aiding and abetting involves conduct that takes place before the principal commits a crime. However, what if you knowingly help someone cover up a crime they already committed without your help. This too is a crime, referred to as being an “accessory after the fact.”
Under Wyoming Statutes Section 6-5-202, it is illegal to help another person “hinder, delay, or prevent the discovery, detection, apprehension, prosecution, detention, conviction or punishment of another for the commission of a crime.”
Thus, if your involvement only occurred after the principal committed the crime, you cannot be found guilty of aiding and abetting. For example, helping someone hide evidence or allowing them to hide out in your home could render you an accessory after the fact.
The distinction between aiding and abetting is important because the punishment for being an accessory after the fact is significantly less in most cases.
A charge involving being an accessory after the fact can be a felony or a misdemeanor. The crime is a felony if:
- The underlying crime is a felony; and
- You are not related to the person committing the crime.
Felony accessory after the fact charges carry a maximum penalty of three years in jail and a fine of $3,000, or both.
You will face misdemeanor accessory after the fact charges if:
- The underlying crime is a felony, and you are related to the person committing the crime;
- The underlying crime is a misdemeanor, and you are not related to the person committing the crime; or
- The person committing the crime was a minor.
Misdemeanor accessory after the fact charges carry a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a fine of up to $750, or both.
In certain situations, being an accessory after the fact is not a crime at all. This is the case when the underlying crime is a misdemeanor and you are related to the person committing the crime.
Contact a Wyoming Criminal Defense Lawyer for Immediate Assistance with Your Case
If you face charges of aiding and abetting, the punishment is the same as if you committed the offense yourself. Do not take these charges lightly. At the Cowboy Country Criminal Defense, our Wyoming criminal defense lawyers represent clients in all types of cases. We handle theft cases, violent crimes, sex crimes, homicides, and more.
Our attorneys take an aggressive approach to every case we handle from the moment you bring us on board. As skilled negotiators, we can often resolve cases favorably without the need for a trial. However, as experienced trial attorneys, we are always ready to take your case to trial in front of the judge or jury.
We will fight for you with every legal tool possible. To learn more, and to schedule a free consultation, give us a call at 307-243-4978 today. You can also connect with us through our online contact form, and reach out to you shortly.