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Believe it or not, criminals have different names depending on how they participated in a crime. The legal term for this is criminal actors, and different criminal actors may also experience different levels of culpability in a criminal case.

There are many different criminal actors, including aiders, abettors, accomplices, and conspirators. However, we’ll be talking more in-depth about three of them today–read on to learn more.

  1. Accomplices

In most crimes, there are both a principal and accomplices. The former is the main actor of the crime while the latter are those who assist in the crime. The legal definition of an accomplice varies from state to state, but by and large they are a person who intentionally participates or encourages help in a crime. Interestingly, accomplices often receive punishment equal to principals for the involvement in the crime.

Some states refer to accomplices as ‘aiders and abettors’ as well. However, an accomplice doesn’t necessarily have to assist in a crime to be found guilty of aiding and abetting. For example, if Person A wants to break into a store at night to steal property there, Person B can be found guilty as an accomplice if they distract the nighttime security guard so that Person A can break in and commit the crime.

  1. Accessories

Accessories are similar to accomplices in that they intentionally help the principal commit the crime. However, one key difference is that accessories are usually not present at the crime. To illustrate how this works, let’s refer back to the above example. If Person B helps Person A avoid arrest after the crime has been completed, then Person B will be considered an accessory to the crime and not an accomplice.

State laws often differentiate between “accessories before the fact” and “accessories after the fact.” However, many states view accessories before the fact and raiders and abettors as one in the same, meaning accessories before the fact will usually receive the same punishment as the principal.

  1. Conspirators

Two or more people who commit a crime are legally known as conspirators. Even though conspiracy is related to aiding and abetting, the agreement between the two is enough to make each conspirator a principal in the crime. For conspirators to be convicted of this crime, the prosecutor must prove that each person agreed to commit a crime together. Aiding and abetting does not require this proof for conviction.

Moreover, two people can still be convicted of conspiracy–even if the crime never actually occurs. But most states protect conspirators from being convicted for their private thoughts by requiring at least one of the conspirators to do something to advance their plan. This is called an ‘overt act.’
If you’ve been charged with a crime, you still deserve a legal representative who will fight for your rights in court. Attorney Sabrina Puglisi has been defending residents in the Miami-Dade area for over a decade now, and her fierce courtroom advocacy has made her a strong ally for her clients. To learn more about how she can help you with your particular case, call Puglisi Law today to schedule a free consultation.