Featured News 2018 What Does It Mean to Be an Accessory After the Fact?

What Does It Mean to Be an Accessory After the Fact?

Being charged as an "accessory after the fact" to a crime has serious implications—and preparing yourself for a legal battle is the first step to righting the wrong you have been accused of. For this reason, accessories should hire practiced criminal defense attorneys to help them through this trying time, just like other defendants in a court case.

What Is an Accessory After the Fact?

When someone is charged as an accessory after the fact to a crime, it means that the person is charged with aiding in the attempted or successful escape of a criminal.

There are various reasons why a person may be charged as an accessory after the fact to a crime:

  • Withholding known information concerning the whereabouts of an at-large criminal
  • Willfully driving a criminal to a designated location after criminal activity
  • Stashing away stolen goods or contraband for a criminal
  • Hiding a weapon or other evidence that could prove a criminal's unlawful actions
  • Financially aiding a criminal's escape
  • Relaying information or advice to the criminal that helps in their escape
  • Giving police misinformation to help a criminal escape

How Is an Accessory After the Fact Found Guilty in Court?

In a courtroom, the prosecution must prove a few things to the jury for an accessory to be convicted:

  • The accused had knowledge that the person committed a crime
  • The accused helped the person with the intention to hinder or prevent the person's apprehension, trial, or punishment

As you can see, the categories are broad, but evidence must be concrete to convict a person as an accessory. For example, a citizen charged with accessory may have text messages or phone calls that prove that he or she sent money to the criminal; however, in those calls and texts, there may be no indication that the accused knew the criminal had committed a crime. Therefore, under these circumstances alone, the charged accessory should not be convicted.

Obtaining Legal Help as an Accessory After the Fact

An accessory may not have committed the initial crime that made the defendant a criminal; however, an accessory can still do serious time for trying to help a criminal after the fact. Federal laws state that an accessory can be sentenced up to half of the maximum time that the convicted felon receives. This means an accessory could face 15 years in prison if the felon obtains a 30-year sentence. For this reason, finding a defense attorney is just as important for an accessory as it is for the main defendant.

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