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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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