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Accessory Before the Fact (Example, Penalties, Definition & More)

An accessory before-the-fact is an individual who aids, abets, or encourages another person to commit a crime but who is not actually present at the scene. Like an accomplice, an accessory before-the-fact may be held criminally liable to the same extent as the principal.
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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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What is an example of an Accessory Before the Fact?

Examples of being an accessory before the fact include:

  • Providing a person with the tools necessary to burglarize another person’s home or a business
  • Giving someone the keys to a car to use in a robbery
  • Serving as a lookout

What's the Difference Between Accessory Before the Fact and Accessory After the Fact?

An accessory before the fact is defined as someone who “counsels, hires or otherwise procures a felony to be committed,” whereas an accessory after the fact is someone who “harbors, conceals, maintains, or assists the principal felon” after the commission of a crime. As the names of the crimes suggest, one is charged for helping before the crime and another is for helping after the crime has already taken place.

Related Article: What Is an Accessory After the Fact?

What is Complicity?

Complicity is the participation in a criminal act of an accomplice, a partner in the crime who aids or encourages (abets) other perpetrators of that crime, and who shared with them an intent to commit the crime. The doctrine of criminal complicity governs the joint implication of each of 2 or more persons in a crime.

What's the Difference Between an Accessory and an Accomplice?

One of the key differences between an accomplice and an accessory before or after the fact is that an accomplice is typically present at the scene of a crime whereas an accessory is not. This means that an accessory is usually subject to lesser charges compared to an accomplice.

What are the Penalties for Being an Accessory Before the Fact?

In most states, a conviction for being an accessory before the fact will cause you to face the same penalties as the person who directly carried out the crime. For example, consider a state where robbery is punished with a maximum prison sentence of 15 years. If you help a person commit a robbery, you will also face 15 years in prison.

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What Is an Accessory Before the Fact?

An Accessory Before the Fact is someone who assists or encourages the commission of a crime but is not present during the actual crime.

What Are the Legal Penalties for Being an Accessory Before the Fact?

The legal penalties for being an Accessory Before the Fact can vary but often include imprisonment, fines, and a criminal record, similar to the penalties faced by the principal offender.

Can Someone Be Charged as an Accessory Before the Fact if They Were Unaware a Crime Was Planned?

No, they cannot be charged as an Accessory Before the Fact if they were unaware a crime was planned. The person must knowingly assist or encourage the commission of the crime to be charged as an Accessory Before the Fact.

What Actions Can Lead to Being Charged as an Accessory Before the Fact?

Actions that can lead to being charged as an Accessory before the fact include providing advice, planning, resources, or other forms of assistance that help facilitate the commission of a crime.

Is It Possible to Defend Against a Charge of Accessory Before the Fact?

Yes, it is possible to defend against a charge of Accessory Before the Fact. Common defenses include lack of intent, lack of knowledge of the crime, or coercion. Consulting with a criminal defense attorney is crucial for building a strong defense.

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