“Accessory to a Crime” – What does this mean?

Posted on September 12, 2021 Two criminals going over the details of a potential crime. An accessory to a crime is someone who helps to commit the offense, even if he or she was not actually give during its commission. many states differentiate between accessories after the fact, and accessories before the offense. In some states, being an accessory before the crime can be called aiding and abetting the crime.

What does it mean to be an accessory to a crime?

An accessory to a crime is anyone who helped someone else commit the offense. There are 2 types of accessories :

  1. accessories after the fact, and
  2. accessories before the fact.

The difference between the two is when the accessory provided help.

Accessories before the fact provide aid before the crime is committed. The criminal justice arrangement in many states treats these defendants as a region of the underlie crime. Accessories after the fact only help once the crime has occurred. Criminal law tends to treat these offenses as exchangeable to those for obstruction of justice. This leads to a big difference in the likely penalties for a conviction. In either shell, the accessory does not need to be introduce during the crime. They can be miles away and hush be an accessary.

What is an accessory after the fact?

An accessory after the fact helped person else after the crime had been committed. In California, for exercise, prosecutors have to show that :

  • someone else committed a felony offense,
  • the defendant knew that the perpetrator had committed a felony, or been charged or convicted of one,
  • after the commission of the felony, the defendant harbored, concealed, or aided the perpetrator, and
  • the defendant intended that the perpetrator avoid or escape arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment.

Some other submit laws do not require that the underlie crime was a felony. Examples of being an accessory after the fact include :

  • providing an alibi for a friend who has been charged with driving under the influence (DUI),
  • driving a getaway car after a robbery, and
  • helping a criminal suspect or felon escape arrest.

What does it mean to aid and abet a crime?

An accessory before the fact helps the perpetrator before the crime has been committed. It is much called aiding and abetting a crime. In California, prosecutors have to prove the follow beyond a reasonable doubt :

  • the perpetrator or principal offender committed the crime,
  • the defendant knew that the perpetrator intended to commit the crime,
  • before or during the crime’s commission, the defendant intended to aid and abet the perpetrator in committing the offense, and
  • the defendant’s words or conduct did in fact aid and abet the perpetrator’s offense.

Some examples of aiding and abetting a crime admit :

  • serving as a lookout during a robbery,
  • furnishing a firearm for use during a crime, and
  • encouraging someone else to commit the offense.

additionally, prosecutors have the effect of proving that an accessary before the fact did not withdraw. In California, person accused of aiding and abetting withdraws their aid if he or she :

  • notifies everyone else known to be involved in the commission of the crime that they are no longer participating, provided that the notification is early enough to prevent the commission of the offense, and
  • does everything reasonably within his or her power to prevent the crime from being committed, even if those efforts are eventually unsuccessful.

Under California common law, person can be an accessory before the fact without providing physical avail. An accessory can merely intend for the crime to be committed and instigate, incite, or encourage person else to do it.

The presence of the defendant at the crime picture is a sign of the zodiac that he or she was an aider or abettor. His or her absence, however, does not mean that they did not help and abet it. other factors in determining whether person aided and abetted the discourtesy include the defendant ’ s demeanor before or after the offense, american samoa well as his or her company with the perpetrator.

What are the penalties?

Each state or jurisdiction has its own punishments for an accessory charge. Most treat a criminal case of aiding and abetting a crime as more hard than being an accessary after the fact. closely all states have condemnable codes that treat them as offprint crimes. In California, for example, a conviction for aiding and abetting carries the same penalties as the underlying criminal charges. If the underlying offense carries 5 years in prison, aiding and abetting in its commission carries 5 years in prison, american samoa well. The only exception to this rule is for accessories to murder. meanwhile, the crime of accessory after the fact is a wobbler umbrage in California. It can be charged as either a misdemeanor or as a felony. Prosecutors have broad discretion in choosing how to pursue the charges. If pursued as a misdemeanor, a conviction carries up to 1 year in jail. If pursued as a felony, a conviction carries up to 3 years in jail or prison. In either case, a conviction can besides carry up to $ 5,000 in fines. With these steep penalties on the board, it is crucial to establish an attorney-client relationship with a condemnable refutation lawyer from a local anesthetic law firm to get his or her legal advice on how to proceed.

Are there any legal defenses?

People accused of being an accessory to a crime have several legal defenses that they can raise. A skilled criminal defense lawyer will know which one is best for a detail case. Some of the most common are that the defendant :

  • was under duress when he or she provided assistance,
  • had no knowledge of the crime or the intent to commit one,
  • was a bystander who did not actually help in the offense, at all, or
  • withdrew from the criminal offense.

Duress is a common defense mechanism for allege accessories to make. If the perpetrator forced person else to act as an accessory in the committee of a crime, it can be a firm defense mechanism.

For example : Bill robs a bank. To get away, he carjacks Helen. He puts a grease-gun to her oral sex and tells her to drive away .

Alleged accessories besides frequently argue that they had no knowledge of the offense or that they were merely bystanders. To be an accessary before the fact, the defendant must have known that a crime was to take topographic point. To be an accessory after the fact, the defendant must have known that a crime had occurred. In some cases, a bystander ’ s impeccant actions may appear to be helping the perpetrator commit the crime.

How is this different from conspiracy?

The crime of conspiracy is like to aiding and abetting an offense. however, there are important differences. These precise differences will depend on the country ’ s criminal laws.

In California, for exemplar, conspiracy happens when :

  • the defendant agrees with someone else to commit a crime, and
  • one of the parties to the agreement takes an overt act in furtherance of the agreement.

This requires more affair in the crime. conspiracy requires that the conspirator must have been a part of the decisiveness to commit the crime. Being an accessory can happen without being a separate of the planning stage.

About the Author

Author Avatar

Neil Shouse

A early Los Angeles prosecutor, lawyer Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School ( and completed extra calibrate studies at MIT ). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court television receiver, The Today Show and Court television. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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