An accessory after the fact is a legal term used to describe a person who, knowing that a crime has been committed, assists the person who committed that crime in order to hinder or prevent their apprehension, trial, or punishment. This assistance can include hiding evidence, providing a false alibi, aiding in the offender’s escape, or concealing the crime from law enforcement.
Accessory after the Fact Sentence
What Are Some Examples of Being an Accessory After the Fact?
Here are some examples of being an accessory after the fact:
If a person knowingly hides a weapon that was used in a crime to prevent it from being discovered by law enforcement, that person could be charged as an accessory after the fact.
Let’s say your friend commits a robbery, and during the crime, he uses a gun. After the crime, he comes to you and gives you the gun for safekeeping. If you knowingly take the gun and hide it to prevent it from being discovered by law enforcement, this is being an accessory after the fact. You’re aware of the crime, and you’re attempting to obstruct justice by concealing evidence.
Helping the Offender Escape
If someone helps a criminal to evade law enforcement, such as by providing a car for a getaway or sheltering them in their home, they can be charged as an accessory after the fact.
Suppose your sibling is involved in a hit-and-run accident, and they rush to you for help, explaining the situation. If you then decide to help them evade law enforcement by providing them with your car to escape the area or by letting them hide in your home, you could be considered an accessory after the fact. You’re aware of the crime, and you’re aiding the offender in evading capture.
Providing a False Alibi
If a person knowingly provides a false alibi for a criminal, stating they were with them at the time of the crime when they were not, this could lead to charges of being an accessory after the fact.
Let’s say your coworker is involved in a crime, but they ask you to tell anyone who asks that they were with you at the time the crime occurred. If you knowingly agree to this and provide a false alibi to law enforcement, this could lead to charges of being an accessory after the fact. You’re aware of the crime, and you’re attempting to obstruct justice by providing false information to investigators.
Aiding in the Other Defendant’s Escape
Aiding in the other defendant’s escape can be a scenario where a person becomes an accessory after the fact.
Let’s consider a scenario where two people were involved in a burglary. Person A was the main actor, while Person B was the lookout. After the crime, Person A was caught, but Person B managed to escape. If Person B, knowing that Person A has been arrested, decides to help Person A escape from police custody or jail, then Person B could be charged as an accessory after the fact. In this case, Person B is aiding in the escape of the other defendant, which is a clear attempt to obstruct justice.
What Are the Legal Penalties for Being an Accessory After the Fact?
Misdemeanor Accessory After the Fact
In some jurisdictions, being an accessory after the fact to a misdemeanor crime can lead to a misdemeanor charge for the accessory.
For example, if the principal crime was petty theft, which is typically a misdemeanor, and a person knowingly helped the thief to escape or hid the stolen goods, that person might be charged with a misdemeanor.
The penalties for a misdemeanor accessory after the fact can include a fine, probation, or jail time, typically less than one year.
For instance, in a hypothetical case where a person helped a friend evade police after a shoplifting incident, the accessory might be sentenced to probation and a fine if convicted. The fine could range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. The probation could also include community service or mandatory counseling.
Felony Accessory After the Fact
If the principal crime is a felony, the accessory after the fact charge is often also a felony. This applies to more serious crimes like murder, rape, armed robbery, and others.
The penalties for a felony accessory after the fact are generally more severe and can include a significant fine, lengthy probation, or prison time. In many jurisdictions, the sentence for an accessory after the fact can be up to half the maximum sentence for the principal crime.
For instance, if a person was aware of a murder and helped the murderer escape, hide the weapon, or provide a false alibi, they could face severe penalties if convicted. They might face up to half the maximum sentence for murder, which could be many years or even decades in prison.
Being a convicted felon carries long-term consequences that extend beyond the immediate sentence. These may include loss of certain civil rights (like voting or owning a firearm), difficulty finding employment, ineligibility for certain types of governmental aid, and other social and economic impacts.
In some cases, a person might face both state and federal charges for being an accessory after the fact. For example, if the principal crime involved crossing state lines or federal property, federal charges could apply, carrying significant prison time and hefty fines.
Are There Any Defenses to Accessory After the Fact Charges?
Yes, there are potential defenses to accessory after the fact charges. These might include:
- Lack of Knowledge: One potential defense is that the accused did not know a crime had been committed. If the person did not know that they were assisting a criminal, they could not be held as an accessory.
- Duress: Another defense is that the person was acting under duress, meaning they were threatened or coerced into assisting the criminal. If someone can demonstrate they were in fear for their safety or the safety of others, the duress defense can potentially be used.
- No Legal Duty to Report: In some jurisdictions, unless you are part of certain professions (like a physician or a teacher), there is no legal obligation to report a crime, so simply not reporting it may not be enough to be charged as an accessory after the fact. However, actively concealing the crime or helping the criminal escape would still be punishable.
Do I Need a Criminal Lawyer for Help With Accessory After the Fact Charges?
Absolutely. If you’re facing charges for being an accessory after the fact, seek the help of a criminal lawyer. They can help you understand the complexities of the law, guide you through the legal process, analyze the details of your case, and formulate an effective defense strategy.
On LegalMatch, you can easily find experienced criminal lawyers who can provide the assistance you need. Remember, being charged with a crime is a serious matter, so use LegalMatch today to find the best professional legal support for your case.
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