Most people realize that breaking the law can result in criminal charges. But what does it mean if police officers accuse you of helping someone else commit a crime?

Under Wisconsin law, there are various degrees of involvement in another person’s crime, and, correspondingly, various levels of criminal responsibility for accomplices. If you face charges of criminal involvement, be sure to get your own attorney. Your interests may likely conflict with those of the other defendant or defendants in the case, so their attorney may not be able to represent you effectively.

Aiding and abetting

One kind of accomplice liability is called aiding and abetting. This means being present at the crime scene. Although an aider and abettor does not commit the actual crime, he or she passively assists. Some examples include shouting encouragement to your friend who is engaging in physical violence, or acting as lookout while other people make a drug deal.

Accessory before the fact

Another type of accomplice is one who is an accessory before the fact but may not necessarily be present at the commission of the crime. This person knows someone else plans to commit a crime and helps facilitate that crime, with the intention of making sure the crime occurs. For example, if you know someone plans to commit a robbery and you lend this person your car in order to help him or her get to the crime scene, you may face accomplice charges.

On the other hand, if someone just asks to borrow your car and ends up committing a crime when driving it, the prosecution’s case against you may be weaker. However, you may still need to fight a civil asset forfeiture if the police take your car in the course of the arrest.

Accessory after the fact

An aider and abettor and an accessory before the fact typically face the same charges as the person who actively committed the crime. Another type of charge is accessory after the fact. In such a situation, you did not know about the crime before it happened but helped the perpetrator get away with it afterward. This usually results in lesser charges than the perpetrator would face.