18 U.S. Code § 2 - Principals

(a) Whoever commits an offense against the United States or aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal.
(b) Whoever willfully causes an act to be done which if directly performed by him or another would be an offense against the United States, is punishable as a principal.


(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 684; Oct. 31, 1951, ch. 655, § 17b,65 Stat. 717.)
Historical and Revision Notes

Based on title 18, U.S.C., 1940 ed., § 550 (Mar. 4, 1909, ch. 321, § 332,35 Stat. 1152).
Section 2 (a) comprises section 550 of title 18, U.S.C., 1940 ed., without change except in minor matters of phraseology.
Section 2 (b) is added to permit the deletion from many sections throughout the revision of such phrases as “causes or procures”.
The section as revised makes clear the legislative intent to punish as a principal not only one who directly commits an offense and one who “aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures” another to commit an offense, but also anyone who causes the doing of an act which if done by him directly would render him guilty of an offense against the United States.
It removes all doubt that one who puts in motion or assists in the illegal enterprise but causes the commission of an indispensable element of the offense by an innocent agent or instrumentality, is guilty as a principal even though he intentionally refrained from the direct act constituting the completed offense.
This accords with the following decisions: Rothenburg v. United States, 1918, 38 S. Ct. 18, 245 U.S. 480, 62 L. Ed. 414, and United States v. Hodorowicz, C. C. A. Ill. 1939, 105 F. 2d 218, certiorari denied, 60 S. Ct. 108, 308 U.S. 584, 84 L. Ed. 489. United States v. Giles, 1937, 57 S. Ct. 340, 300 U.S. 41, 81 L. Ed. 493, rehearing denied, 57 S. Ct. 505, 300 U.S. 687, 81 L. Ed. 888.

1951—Subsec. (a). Act Oct. 31, 1951, inserted “punishable as”.
Subsec. (b). Act Oct. 31, 1951, inserted “willfully” before “causes”, and “or another” after “him”, and substituted “is punishable as a principal” for “is also a principal and punishable as such”.

The table below lists the classification updates, since Jan. 3, 2012, for this section. Updates to a broader range of sections may be found at the update page for containing chapter, title, etc.

The most recent Classification Table update that we have noticed was Tuesday, August 13, 2013

An empty table indicates that we see no relevant changes listed in the classification tables. If you suspect that our system may be missing something, please double-check with the Office of the Law Revision Counsel.

18 USCDescription of ChangeSession YearPublic LawStatutes at Large


LII has no control over and does not endorse any external Internet site that contains links to or references LII.