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Aiding and abetting, also sometimes aiding or abetting, is often found in legal definitions of accessorial liability for crimes, for example "aiding or abetting a felony."

Is it proper to use "in" after "aiding (and/or) abetting"? Is either of the following examples more proper, or is either improper?

Example A1: "The law creates criminal penalties for aiding or abetting in the preparation or commission of a murder."

Example A2: "The law creates criminal penalties for aiding or abetting the preparation or commission of a murder."

Does it make any difference if you drop "preparation or commission of"? Examples:

Example B1: "The law creates criminal penalties for aiding or abetting in a murder."

Example B2: "The law creates criminal penalties for aiding or abetting a murder."

One thought is that it may be proper to use "in" in these circumstances, when referring to the act; "in" would be improper when referring to the actor.

Example C1: "The law creates criminal penalties for aiding or abetting a murderer."

The dictionary example usages I've found omit "in." See, e.g., here. But while searching for an answer, I see a lot of use of "in." That said, much of that use is in the context of legislation, and I never assume the intelligence of a politician, and especially not a group of politicians!

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2 Answers 2

I don't believe you need the in in any of these sentences.

This becomes clear when you read this definition of aid and abet from a law dictionary:

aid and abet (verb) — To order, encourage, facilitate, or to actively, knowingly, intentionally, or purposefully assist, or otherwise promote or attempt to promote the commission of a crime or a tort. Affirmative conduct is regarded; aiding and abetting cannot be established by omission or negative acquiescence.

So when you substitute ordering, encouraging, or facilitating into your examples, you get:

"The law creates criminal penalties for encouraging the preparation or commission of a murder."

"The law creates criminal penalties for encouraging a murderer."

"The law creates criminal penalties for facilitating the preparation or commission of a murder."

"The law creates criminal penalties for ordering a murder."

Interestingly, I saw one definition of aid and abet here that said it is "a lawyer redundancy since abet means aid, which lends credence to the old rumor that lawyers used to be paid by the word."

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The term aiding and abetting has effectively become a compound unit in itself - as JLG indicates, the three-word conjunction really has a single meaning. The sequence "aiding and abetting a" gets 226K hits in Google Books, as opposed to only 30K for "aiding or abetting a". So don't use "or".

And since "aiding and abetting in a" gets only 11K hits, I'd advise against using "in" as well.

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