FREE Case Review (866) 588-0600

Accessory to a Crime in 2024 (Definition & Key Concepts Legally Explained)

An accessory to a crime is an individual who assists in some manner to the commission of a criminal act. Legally speaking, an accessory is considered to be an accomplice to the crime; however, the level of involvement and legal ramifications vary depending on the jurisdiction and the nature of the offense.
Awards & recognition
Collen Clark Published by Collen Clark

Schmidt & Clark, LLP is not currently accepting these types of cases and has posted this content for information purposes only. We encourage you to seek a qualified attorney, if you feel you might have a case.


What Does it Mean to be an Accessory to a Crime?

The key concepts of being an accessory to a crime include:

  • Legal Definition: An accessory is typically defined as a person who knowingly and willingly aids, abets, counsels, or encourages a principal offender to commit a crime.
  • Before or After the Fact: An accessory is involved either before or after the crime is committed. If they help before the crime, they are defined as an "accessory before the fact." If they aid or hide the principal offender after the crime, they are considered an "accessory after the fact."
  • Types of Assistance: Assistance given by an accessory can occur in different ways, including providing information, supplying weapons, planning, helping an escape, or hiding evidence.
  • Knowledge and Intent: Being an accessory to a crime typically requires that the individual knows about the criminal activity and has the intent to aid in its commission.
  • Criminal Liability: Accessory liability depends on the specific jurisdiction and laws in place there. In some cases, an accessory can be charged with the same crime as the principal offender, while in other cases, the charges may be less severe.
  • Penalties: Depending on the severity of the crime and the level of the accessory's involvement, the penalty for being an accessory can include fines, probation, or imprisonment.
  • Differentiated from Principals: The principal offender is the individual who directly commits the crime. While an accessory may be charged with a crime, it is separate and distinct from being the principal offender.

What are Accessory Laws?

Accessory laws are intended to deter people from aiding or participating in crimes and to hold them accountable for their role in the crime. Laws can vary by jurisdiction, and legal definitions may be nuanced based on local statutes and judicial interpretations. This is why it is important to consult specific legal statutes in the relevant jurisdiction to understand the ramifications of being an accessory to a crime.

What's the Difference in Being an Accessory to a Crime and an Accomplice?

While the terms "accessory" and "accomplice" are often used interchangeably, they have different legal definitions. Both involve aiding or contributing to a crime, but there are differences in their involvement.

The key difference between an accessory and an accomplice lies in the level of involvement and presence at the scene of the crime. An accessory may assist before or after the crime, but may not be physically present during its commission. By contrast, an accomplice actively participates in the criminal act and is typically present at the scene.

Related Articles:

If you’re accused of a crime, don’t hesitate to contact us for your free consultation with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers.

FAQs :

What Are the Different Types of Accessories to a Crime?

The different types off accessories to a crime includes Accessory Before the Fact, who assists in planning, and Accessory After the Fact, who helps the offender avoid capture or prosecution after the crime.

Can Someone Be Charged as an Accessory Even if They Did Not Commit the Crime?

Yes, someone can be charged as an accessory even if they did not commint the crime. They will be charged if they knowingly assist in the crime’s preparation or help the offender afterward.

What Are the Penalties for Being an Accessory to a Crime?

The penalties for being an Acccessory to a Crime can vary but can include imprisonment, fines, and a criminal record, often depending on the severity of the crime they assisted.

Can Providing Financial Support Make Someone an Accessory to a Crime?

Yes, providing financial support can make someone an accessory to a crime because that helps facilitate a crime.

What Are Common Defenses Against a Charge of Being an Accessory to a Crime?

Common defenses against a charge of being an Accessory to a Crime can include lack of knowledge about the crime, lack of intent to assist, or being coerced into providing assistance. Consulting with a criminal defense attorney is crucial.

Get a Free Lawsuit Evaluation With Our Lawyers

The Litigation Group at Schmidt & Clark, LLP is an experienced team of trial lawyers that focuses on the representation of plaintiffs in lawsuits. We are handling individual litigation nationwide and currently accepting new legal challenges in all 50 states.

If you or a loved one was involved with these matters, you should contact our law firm immediately for a free case evaluation. You may be entitled to a settlement by filing a suit and we can help.