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Criminal Accessory

An accessory to a crime is any person who aided the perpetrator, whether before or after the crime took place.

Unlike an accomplice, who is present when the crime is committed, an accessory is not usually involved at the time of the crime. However, an accessory may still be equally guilty under law.

If you or someone you know is facing charges of accessory to a crime, you can discuss these charges with a criminal defense attorney.

Simply fill out our free online evaluation form or call 877-445-1059 to connect with a defense lawyer in your area.

Accessory Charges

Accessory charges may only be filed in felony cases, meaning you cannot usually be charged as an accessory to a misdemeanor or infraction.

In some states, a distinction is made between accessory before-the-fact and accessory after-the-fact.

Accessory Before the Fact

An accessory before the fact is typically someone involved in the planning of a crime, but not the execution. This could include:

  • An employee who intentionally does not set the alarm before leaving work, allowing the building to be burglarized
  • A security system installer does not connect a new device, allowing a partner to burglarize a home
  • A rental car employee leaves the keys in a car, allowing it to be stolen and used as a getaway vehicle in a crime

Some jurisdictions do not have a distinction for accessory before the fact, and consider any person who helped in the planning or execution of a crime an accomplice. Accessories often face the same criminal charges as the principal.

h3>Accessory After the Fact

An accessory after the fact is generally defined as a person who knowingly and voluntarily helps a felon avoid arrest or prosecution. This could include:

  • Providing a hideout or place to lay low
  • Providing a false alibi
  • Helping clean up a crime scene or dispose of evidence

Because a person guilty of accessory after the fact typically has no hand in the criminal act, the punishment in most jurisdictions is limited to half the possible punishment of the crime.

Also, a spouse or other relatives is often protected from accessory after the fact charges, meaning that if your spouse committed the crime, you might not be charged.

Discuss Accessory Charges with a Criminal Defense Attorney

If you or someone you know is facing accessory charges following a crime, you can discuss your options with a local criminal attorney. Together, you can explore the legal system and your options.

Speak with a criminal attorney today. Simply fill out our free online evaluation form or call 877-455-1059 to connect with a criminal defense attorney in your area.

The above summary is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. For the latest information on criminal accessory laws, speak to a local criminal defense lawyer in your state.


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