We’ve talked a little about aiding and abetting crimes before, but one area where this concept can be particularly grey is when it comes to aiding someone who is illegally entering the country. Obviously it’s illegal to smuggle an undocumented immigrant into the country or hire someone who is not legally able to work in America, but is it illegal to give aid to someone who entered the country illegally? It depends on how you do it, says Vista defense lawyer Peter M. Liss.
Defining Aiding and Abetting
Aiding and abetting requires you to actually help the person break the law in some manner, including offering advice, planning, financial aid for the crime or by helping the person avoid or escape the police. If you are accused of aiding and abetting someone with crossing the border or any other crime, you can face similar charges as the person who actually broke the law.
While some people do offer this type of assistance to people crossing the border, a lot of people simply offer humanitarian assistance, such as providing immigrants with water, food or blankets. This type of aid is not considered aiding and abetting as it is not directly helping with the crime of entering the country illegally.
Criminalizing Humanitarian Efforts?
While giving water to immigrants crossing the border in the dessert isn’t a crime in itself, the current administration wants to discourage those they consider to be “misguidedly” helping immigrants. As a result, they are actually trying to press charges against volunteers who have been leaving water in the dessert for immigrants.
Handing a bottle of water to someone else, regardless of that person’s immigration status, may not be a crime, but leaving anything behind in a wildlife refuge can be considered “abandonment of property” and entering certain refuges without permits is also a crime. So these are the charges many activists are now facing for leaving water behind in dessert wildlife refuges. Many of the cases are reduced to littering tickets thanks to both the help of the defendants’ Vista criminal lawyers and public outcry, but at least four volunteers for the group No More Deaths have been found guilty of abandonment of property and entering a refuge without a permit.
Fighting These Charges
While the prosecutors in these cases often try to make the volunteers sound like naive fools who are giving immigrants false hope, a good Vista defense attorney would be able to counter that by explaining that these volunteers are simply trying to reduce the number of deaths suffered by immigrants entering the country illegally -hundreds die entering the U.S. every year. Although politics shouldn’t really play a role in criminal law, in cases like these, how the defendant is viewed can make a big difference as abandonment of property charges were designed to prevent people from dumping trash in refuges, not to stop people trying to prevent unnecessary deaths.
If you have been accused of a crime related to aiding immigrants or anyone else who may be breaking the law, it is critical you call a Vista criminal attorney as soon as possible. Do not speak to the police or prosecutors without an attorney present or you may say something that can harm your defense later. To schedule a free initial consultation, please call (760) 643-4050.
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