Sometimes it just doesn’t pay to help out a friend! The stark reality of this ancient wisdom becomes altogether clear when someone gets caught up in the commission of a crime. Accomplice liability is complicated and sometimes difficult to sort out. If you have been charged with being an accomplice to a crime, you should retain the services of an experienced criminal law attorney as soon as possible.
What is an Accomplice?
Accomplice liability in a crime can be described in several ways. A person who knowingly participates in the commission of a crime may be referred to as an accomplice, an accessory or an aider and abettor. In any case, it means that someone knowingly helped someone commit a crime, and that’s not good. Anyone who knowingly helps someone commit a crime in any way can also be convicted of that very same crime.
Principle in the First Degree
The person who actually commits the crime is guilty of being a principle in the first degree. A familiar example would be the person who actually fires the gun that results in the death of a homicide victim. Anyone who forces an innocent party to commit a crime is also considered a principle in the first degree.
Principle in the Second Degree
Anyone who is at the crime scene and knowingly helps a principle in the first degree in the commission of a crime is classified as a principle in the second degree. Someone who stands guard outside the entrance to a store while the principle in the first degree robs a clerk would be considered a principle in the second degree.
Accessory Before the Fact
An accessory before a crime is someone who was not at the crime scene but intentionally helped the first or second principles commit the crime. A person who knowingly supplies a gun for the purpose of committing a murder or robbery would be guilty of being an accessory before the fact.
Accessory After the Fact
Unlike an accessory before the commission of a crime, an accessory after the fact is someone who purposely helps the principles avoid arrest and conviction. If someone knowingly hid a gun that was used in a murder or robbery, they would be guilty of being an accessory after the fact. The same would be true if someone intentionally provided a hiding place for the culprits.
Guilt or Innocence
A person must knowingly serve in the role of an accomplice to be guilty of accomplice liability. If a murderer spends the night with a friend after committing a homicide, the accommodating friend would only be guilty of being an accessory after the fact if they knew that the crime had been committed.
If you encouraged or helped someone commit a crime, you are in jeopardy of being charged with that crime. Even if your role was quite small, an experienced criminal law attorney will be required to protect your legal rights and minimize the charges against you. A criminal defense attorney can also be useful if you have been improperly charged with being an accomplice in the commission of a crime.