Accessory After the Fact: Definition and Defenses

Accessory After the FactA person becomes an accessory after the fact if, after a felony has been committed, they conceal, harbor, or aid a principal in committing the felony with the intent of helping the principal avoid or escape from arrest, trial or conviction. If your friend committed a crime and you sheltered them to help your friend avoid arrest, you are likely to face charges as being an accessory after the fact.

Consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville, IL for a better understanding of the lines you have crossed, as the statutes may have slight variations per state. There are several defenses your attorney can assert on your behalf to fight a charge of accessory after the fact. Here are the most common ones:

You Had No Knowledge of the Felony

One of the key elements the prosecutor has to prove is that you knew the principal committed the felony or was convicted of it. To illustrate, if you picked up a hitchhiker alongside the road to drive him to a certain point without knowing the person committed a felony, you cannot be convicted of accessory after the fact.

You Had No Intent

Another element the prosecutor must prove is that you concealed, harbored or aided the principal with the intent of helping them escape punishment. Following the same illustration, when you picked up the hitchhiker and when you drove them to somewhere without knowing they committed a felony, it follows you did not help him with the intent that he escape arrest. You cannot be charged as an accessory.

You Were a Bystander

Finally, if you were merely a bystander or by circumstance, at the scene of the crime, you could not be charged as an accessory. Consider this: if you were at the scene of the crime when a person you didn’t know shot and killed someone, you are not an accessory after the fact. However, if the police asked you about the incident and you misinformed them, you will have violated the accessory statute.

The penalty for conviction as an accessory is naturally less severe than the principal the accessory has aided. To learn more about the penalty and punishment, consult with an attorney you trust.