Section 2 of Title 18 provides that whoever "aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures," the commission of an offense against the United States "is punishable as a principal." The statute also punishes as a principal whoever causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense. The statute on principals is not itself a specific criminal offense. The statute abolishes the distinction that formerly existed between principals and accessories before the fact.
Since 18 U.S.C. § 2 applies implicitly to all Federal offenses, an indictment or information need not include the words "aid and abet" in order to sustain a conviction of that charge. See United States v. Gordon, 812 F.2d 965, 969 (5th Cir.), cert. denied, 483 U.S. 1009 (1987); United States v. Masson, 582 F.2d 961 (5th Cir. 1978). Even though the defendant is charged with commission of the substantive offense, proof that he or she only aided or abetted the commission of the crime will support the indictment. See United States v. Laury, 985 F.2d 1293, 1300 n.2 (5th Cir. 1993); Latham v. United States, 407 F.2d 1 (8th Cir. 1969); United States v. Trollinger, 415 F.2d 527 (5th Cir 1969); Theriault v. United States, 401 F.2d 79 (8th Cir. 1968), cert. denied, 393 U.S. 1100 (1969). For a more extensive treatment of aid and abet issues, see the Criminal Resource Manual at 2470-2483.
[updated October 1998]