You don’t always have to be the one who commits a crime to be charged with a criminal offense. Just assisting someone who you know will commit or who has already committed a crime is grounds for arrest and imprisonment. An accessory is someone who assists or encourages or facilitates a crime, or knowingly helps conceal someone else who has committed a crime, or helps conceal the evidence (accessory after the fact), but was not necessarily present at the scene of the crime.
What is accessory before the fact?
An accessory before the fact is someone who aids and abets or encourages someone else (who has yet to commit a crime) in the commission of that crime. An accessory before the fact does not have to be present at the time the crime is committed but can be held equally liable in the eyes of the law.
What is accessory after the fact?
An accessory after the fact is someone who knows that another has committed a crime and actively assists them in avoiding arrest or helps conceal or destroy evidence. An accessory after the fact may be held equally liable as the person who physically committed the crime, or be charged with an alternate offense, such as obstruction of justice, or tampering with a witness.
How can I defend an accessory charge?
In most cases, the best defense against an accessory charge will be a lack of proof. Accessory is hard to prove, as a person must knowingly work in some way to further or cover up a crime to be charged as an accessory. Other possible defenses include:
- Lack of knowledge of the crime committed
- Acting as an accessory under duress or coercion
- Acting as a nonparticipant (no affirmative act in furtherance) or merely present
Every accessory case is different and should be treated as such. If you are faced with an accessory charge, the best course of action is to discuss your situation with a criminal defense lawyer.
What else do I need to know about being charged as an accessory?
One thing to keep in mind are the possibility of plea deals which can work for or against defendants. Sometimes plea deals are offered to defendants in return for testifying against one another. Either the aider or accessory will be offered a deal to testify against the main perpetrator of the crime, or the main perpetrator is offered a deal to testify against the accessory/aider. In these instances, credibility becomes a big factor; as well as evidence in support of or which verifies the testimony.
If you or someone you know is facing an accessory charge, contact a criminal defense lawyer to discuss your options. To learn more, request a free consultation with Adam Pollack.