An accessory after the fact is a person who assists another in escaping or evading arrest after the commission of a crime has taken place. While not part of the original crime, the accessory after the fact may also face criminal charges if they help the other defendants get away. Some states may abbreviate accessories after the crime to “AATF” for short.
Some states make distinctions in the different parties to a crime. Persons who help to plan and execute the actual crime are called “principals”. People who help in some way after the crime has been completed are called accessories. Some states also make designations for “accessories before the fact.”
There are a number of acts and different types of conduct that can cause a person to be categorized as an AATF. These may include:
- Acting as the getaway car driver
- Helping the other parties to dispose of evidence
- Acting as a decoy to distract law enforcement personnel
- Aiding in the other defendant’s escape from various stages of the criminal process, including arrest, conviction, trial, and sentencing
Legal penalties for being an accessory to a crime will depend on various factors. AATF charges can either be a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the situation. Generally speaking, being charged as an accessory after the fact will result in criminal fines and/or jail time. Penalties may depend on:
- The person’s involvement in the crime and in the planning of the crime
- The person’s previous criminal record
- State laws
As previously mentioned, these penalties will vary widely according to state statutes.
Defenses available to a defendant may include:
- There was no crime actually committed
- The defendant was not aware that they were being an accessory to a crime
- The defendant was forced to act as an accessory under threat of harm, which is the duress defense
- The defendant was simply a bystander
- Mistaken identity or lack of evidence
An accessory after the fact conviction can lead to serious misdemeanor or felony punishments under state and federal laws. You may need to hire a criminal law attorney in your area if you need assistance with any type of criminal charges. Your lawyer can help determine how the case might affect you, and can also help formulate a legal strategy for your case.