Charged As An Accessory After The Fact?

[playht_listen_button]Maybe it’s in your nature to help people, especially loved ones. Unfortunately, helping someone after they have committed a crime may come with dire consequences. You might find yourself being charged as an accessory after the fact, even if all you did was let that person come inside from the rain. Here’s more about being an accessory after the fact under California law and what you could do if charged with the offense.

What An Accessory After The Fact Means

California law prohibits helping a perpetrator (someone engaging in illegal activity) after they have committed a felonious crime. By helping, the state will look to whether you hid, concealed, or assisted the person in any way after they committed the crime. This law is classified as a “wobbler” offense. That means it can be either a misdemeanor or felony charge that you’re facing.

For this charge to apply, the state intends to prove that not only did you have knowledge of the perpetrator’s crime, but you aided them by hiding or concealing them with your intent being to help them escape police arrest. Here are some examples:

  • Lying,
  • Providing financial means to help the person escape,
  • Driving the getaway vehicle,
  • Destroying evidence, such as flushing gloves down a toilet

This is different from California’s law relating to your participation in a crime beforehand or during its commission. With an accessory after the fact charge, you are accused of aiding the perpetrator after the crime occurred. You may find yourself facing this charge even if the offense occurred days prior if the perpetrator is still seeking to evade arrest when you assisted.

Will I Be Charged With A Felony?

The perpetrator’s offense must be a felony. But, depending on the circumstances, you may only get charged with a misdemeanor. Here, the state will consider whether you have had prior arrests and convictions, how severe the crime was, and exactly how you helped the perpetrator evade arrest.

Defenses for Accessory After The Fact Charges

As with any criminal charge, there are defenses that you may raise. When raising a defense, it’s ideal to examine what the state must prove and challenge those factors or elements.

It Wasn’t My Intent

If you never intended to help the perpetrator, then you may use this as a defense. It might be that you were a mere bystander as the perpetrator ran past you. You didn’t have a duty to intervene, and because you didn’t take any action, it is unlikely that you had an intent to do anything other than be a passive observer.

I Had No Knowledge Of The Crime

Suppose the perpetrator appears to you as a hitchhiker in need of a ride, and you offer to drive them to the next state over. In that case, if they committed a crime that you knew nothing about, and you were arrested for seemingly helping them flee the state, you would argue that you lacked the necessary intent to be an accessory after the fact. Remember, the state must prove that you knew about the crime when you helped. You can’t have the intent to help the perpetrator evade arrest if you had no idea that they had committed a crime. Compare that scenario to one where the hitchhiker tells you that they are trying to escape after having committed a crime, and you help them. In that case, the state has a stronger case against you for being an accessory after the fact.

I Acted Under Duress or Coercion

Were you terrified? Threatened? Maybe you were bribed? If the perpetrator held a gun to your head and threatened to harm you unless you let them hide in your cellar, you may have a strong defense. If instead, for example, the perpetrator knew that you needed $5,000 or you and your sick child were facing eviction, and you helped the perpetrator, then you might not have this defense at your disposal. If you are unsure about whether duress or coercion applies to your situation, speak with an attorney.

The Suspect Didn’t Commit The Crime

You can only be charged as an accessory if the suspect is the perpetrator. If they are found not guilty, then your charge goes away, as well. If your position is that they didn’t do it, then it’s in your best interest to contact our law firm for a free consultation for professional legal advice.

Next Steps

Being charged as an accessory after the fact risks your freedom. It’s also a complex matter. Despite several defenses to the charge, there’s too much at stake to not have professional representation. Contact our law firm to get advice from expert California attorneys today at (888) 702-8882, or contact us online for a free consultation.

California Criminal Defense Lawyer

My Rights Law‘ mission is to defend those facing California crimes, including accessory after the fact. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys will do everything in our power to help you fight these charges. To learn more about how My Rights Law can help you in your criminal case, reach out to us by calling (888) 702-8882 or contacting us online.

Other inchoate crimes we defend include: Charged With Attempt