Criminal Law

400. Aiding and Abetting: General Principles

A person may be guilty of a crime in two ways. One, he or she may have directly committed the crime. Two, he or she may have aided and abetted someone else, who committed the crime. In these instructions, I will call that other person the "perpetrator." A person is equally guilty of the crime whether he or she committed it personally or aided and abetted the perpetrator who committed it.

[Under some specific circumstances, if the evidence establishes aiding and abetting of one crime, a person may also be found guilty of other crimes that occurred during the commission of the first crime.]

Bench Notes

Instructional Duty

The court has a sua sponte duty to instruct on aiding and abetting when the prosecutor relies on it as a theory of culpability. (People v. Beeman (1984) 35 Cal.3d 547, 560-561 [199 Cal.Rptr. 60, 674 P.2d 1318].)

When the prosecution is relying on aiding and abetting, give this instruction before other instructions on aiding and abetting to introduce this theory of culpability to the jury.

If the prosecution is also relying on the natural and probable consequences doctrine, the court should also instruct with the last bracketed paragraph. Depending on which theories are relied on by the prosecution, the court should then instruct as follows.

Intended Crimes (Target Crimes)

If the prosecution's theory is that the defendant intended to aid and abet the crime or crimes charged (target crimes), give CALCRIM No. 401, Aiding and Abetting: Intended Crimes.

Natural & Probable Consequences Doctrine (Non-Target Crimes)

If the prosecution's theory is that any of the crimes charged were committed as a natural and probable consequence of the target crime, CALCRIM No. 402 or 403 should also be given. If both the target and non-target crimes are charged, give CALCRIM No. 402, Natural and Probable Consequences Doctrine (Target and Non-Target Offenses Charged). In some cases, the prosecution may not charge the target crime but only the non-target crime. In that case, give CALCRIM No. 403, Natural and Probable Consequences (Only Non-Target Offense Charged).

Secondary Sources

1 Witkin & Epstein, California Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Introduction to Crimes, § 78.

4 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 85, Submission to Jury and Verdict, § 85.03[2][d] (Matthew Bender).

6 Millman, Sevilla & Tarlow, California Criminal Defense Practice, Ch. 140, Challenges to Crimes, § 140.10 (Matthew Bender).

(New January 2006)