Aiding and Abetting Meaning ━ What Does It Mean To Be An Accessory?

Aiding and Abetting Meaning ━ What Does It Mean To Be An Accessory?

You might be spotting ‘aiding and abetting;’ and ‘accessory’ altogether or individually at numerous places, or it could be that you only want to clear your concept after finding the respective terms somewhere necessary. 

Either is the case, this post here holds aiding and abetting meaning, along with the explanation of its complementary term ‘accessory.’ Aiding, abetting, and accessory are legal terms. While we’ll be looking at each of them separately, we’ll dig into the similarities among them. 

What is Aiding?

Aiding comes from ‘Aid,’ which means to help or assist someone with something, and it is all the same here as well. The only difference by legal means is, you help someone commit a crime in any way.

Aiding in crime doesn’t necessitate your presence at the scene, you can be at a remote location, in an apartment, or even in another country, if a crime has actually been committed with your help, you are as much guilty as the offender or principal. 

The principal is the one who commits the crime on the scene. 

Anyways, it doesn’t apply to imaginary crimes. As long as you are aiding a crime within your thoughts and it hasn’t been actually committed, neither you nor the principal is guilty. 

Also, if you have unknowingly aided someone to commit a crime, you are not guilty; knowing that the person is committing a crime is a condition to be liable.

What is Abetting?

No crime can be committed without abetting, which means to encourage, support, or instigate someone for the commission of a crime. However, that encouragement or instigation should come from a ‘living person,’ and not from your conscience. 

It won’t matter if you were there for the principal, aiding them with the crime, if you have only sparked the motivation of committing the crime within them, you are equally guilty as the principal. 

Considering you have encouraged a crime, and you stop it from getting executed, you will still be equally liable upon being exposed. Some states of the USA use induce, advise, counsel, and abetting themselves interchangeably. 

What is Accessory?

With the hopes of conveying aiding and abetting meaning to you, let us explain what accessory is? 

Many states pursue the term ‘accessory’ as ‘before the fact,’ and ‘after the fact. Now let’s get to what the term ‘accessory’ actually means? It is slightly different from aiding and abetting, and it means to support or help someone to hide the committed crime while actually not doing it. Or to protect the principal.  

Like you can help the principal for making way to the victim, or by alike means. However, as we said above, you can be an accessory before the crime, i.e., ‘before the fact,’ or after the crime, i.e., ‘after the fact.’

To put it simply, you can either assist the principal before the crime or after the crime; not while actually committing the crime. Either way, you would be as much liable as the offender or principal themselves.

Like abetting, you must know if you are helping a criminal to be convicted of being an accessory yourself. Otherwise, you will not be guilty. 

Note that regardless of if you have aided, abetted, or have been an accessory to a specific or many crimes, and there has not been enough evidence to announce you guilty, you are innocent. 

What are the similarities between Aiding and Abetting?

Now that you are well-aware of accessory, aiding, and abetting meanings; you should also be aware of the similarities and differences among them. 

The Differences

  • Aiding is different from the other two terms including abetting and accessory. It is because you actually assist the principal in the former while or before committing the crime; in the rest, you only encourage or support them before or after the crime has been committed. 

The Similarities

  • For you to be liable as an aider or abetter, the principal has to actually commit a crime.
  • In all three cases including aiding, abetting, and accessory; you have to know the person you are helping, assisting, or supporting is a criminal and committing a crime. 
  • It is not mandatory for you to be present at the crime scene to be convicted as an aider, abetter; or an accessory. 


Aiding is assisting someone to commit a crime, while abetting means to be the foundation, i.e.; to encourage or support it. However, the accessory is usually taken as the means of hiding the evidence or doing things like protecting the principal or offender from being convicted.

On a lighter note, you must not ever become a part of any crime. Therefore, it is crucial to first know the person asking for help, and then help them; though you won’t be guilty unknowingly, but will have to go through all the fuss, in vain.  

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