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Difference Between Aiding and abetting and conspiracy

Aiding and abetting and conspiracy: lawful definition

According to the United States Code Title 18 Section 2, (a) whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal. And (b) whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal.

This means that aiding, abetting, and conspiracy are punishable by law. So how can you tell if a person already aided, abetted, or conspired in a crime? And what are the punishments for these violations? Would it also depend on how grave the matter is? Consider the following situations.

1.) Tom, a small time hacker, has hacked into the CIA’s mainframe and uncovered the list of classified CIA black ops missions. One item on the list shows that Tom’s brother Nick, a big time drug dealer in Cuba, is one of the targets. Tom notified Nick right away. 2.) (The Departed) Colin Sullivan was enrolled by Frank Costello, a big narcotics syndicate guy, to the Academy to become an officer and a snitch to the Police force. Colin Sullivan becomes an officer and works for the FBI. He informs Frank Costello every time a police operation will take place against Costello’s “business”. 3.) (Duplicity) Ray Koval and Claire Stenwick work as industrial security guards for two separate and competing companies whose CEO’s hate each other. It turned out that they were working together to spy on both companies and derive the secret formula for each of the company’s secret products. They then sold the formula to a foreign firm.

You will have noticed that the people mentioned above knowingly assisted others who are engaged in committing crimes. Have they violated 18 USC 2, which is aiding, abetting, and conspiring? The answer is Yes and No. The truth is, they can only be prosecuted for aiding and abetting, but not for conspiracy. The nature of aiding and abetting rests primarily on the fact that an individual has a direct knowledge about the commission of the crime.

Conspiracy is another level of crime. It’s a step higher than aiding and abetting. Look at the third example. Conspiracy happens when an individual not only becomes an accessory to the crime but also did something, or did nothing at all to hinder the commission of the crime. Ray Koval and Claire Stenwick, both sworn industrial security guards of each company, did not prevent each each other from committing their crimes against the companies they were working for. In fact, they conspired to carry out the crime.

It is also said that aiding and abetting and conspiracy are not crimes, per se. According to the case in District of Columbia Circuit United States vs. Kegler, aiding and abetting is just a theory of liability that eliminates the difference between the principal suspect of the crime and the accessory. The aider and abettor become guilty only to whatever crime is committed prematurely. Conspiracy, on the other hand, is really an agreement to violate the law. Another notable distinction would be that aiding and abetting is not necessarily connected to the conspiracy of the crime.

The punishment for aiding and abetting and conspiracy may be as heavy as the punishment for the principal suspect, but the punishments vary by state.The punishment however is and will always likely be quite severe.

SUMMARY:
1. The nature of aiding and abetting is different from conspiracy as the latter is a direct agreement to violate of the law. Aiding and abetting, however, is knowledge of the commission of the crime.
2. Aiding and abetting and conspiracy are heavily punished under United States law.
3. Aiding and abetting is not a crime, but rather a theory of liability that distinguishes the principal suspect from the accessories.


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