Helping someone commit a crime or get away with committing a crime is a criminal offense. To be an accessory, you do not need to make a plan in advance to help the person commit a crime. You also do not need to know that crime might occur or be present for the commission of the crime to be charged as an accessory. 

Kentucky has severe criminal penalties for being an accessory to a crime. Individuals can be accessories before or after the fact.

What is an Accessory Before the Fact?

An accessory before the fact is someone who assists, aids, incites, abets, or encourages another person in the commission of a crime. The person does not need to be present at the crime to be considered an accessory before the fact. 

An example of being an accessory before the fact might be giving a person the tools necessary to burglarize another person’s home or a business. Another example would be giving someone the keys to a car to use in a robbery

What is an Accessory After the Fact?

An accessory after the fact is defined as someone who knows that a crime has been committed gives aid, shelter, or assistance to the person to avoid arrest or punishment. The aid could be financial, but it could also be emotional support or material aid.

An example of being an accessory after the fact would be withholding information from the police that could be used to arrest or convict the person who committed the crime. Another example might be a person who helps “clean up” after a crime was committed by disposing of evidence. Driving a person away from a crime scene could also be considered an accessory after the fact.

Proving That a Person is an Accessory to a Crime

The prosecution must prove that the person knew that the crime was going to be committed or the crime had been committed. Then the state must prove that the person acted with intent to assist the person in committing the crime (accessory before the fact) or acted with the intent to cover up the crime or help the person escape (accessory after the fact).

Proving that a person knew about the crime can be challenging. Evidence that could be used to prove a person knew about the crime might include statements to the police, written communications, recordings of conversations, and eyewitness testimony. 

Defenses to Being an Accessory to a Crime

Several defenses might apply when a person is charged as an accessory to a crime. You could argue that no crime was committed; therefore, you cannot be an accessory to the crime. 

You could also argue that you did not know about the crime either before or after the person committed the crime. Even though you allowed a person to stay in your home, dispose of an item for the person, or drove the person somewhere, you could not be an accessory if you did not know a crime was being committed. 

Your actions could have been unintentional. You did not intend to the person in the commission or coverup of a crime. A lack of intent can be an effective defense to accessory charges. 

Threats of violence or duress might also be a defense to accessory charges. If you can prove that the person who committed the crime threatened to harm you or your family member, the court might find that you lacked the intent to be an accessory.

What Should You Do if You Are Charged as an Accessory to a Crime?

Do not answer questions or make a statement. State that you are evoking your right to remain silent and that you want to talk to a criminal defense lawyer. 

Trying to explain why you did the things you did will not make the police believe you are innocent. In most cases, people who talk to the police without an attorney present make matters worse for themselves. 

When you are released from custody, do not contact the person accused of committing the crime. Do not talk to anyone about the crime or the charges against you except for your criminal lawyer. Anything you say to anyone could be used against you in court. 

Instead, work with your attorney to gather evidence that supports one or more of the defenses to accessory charges. Your lawyer may give you additional instructions. The best way you can help yourself is to listen to your lawyer and follow his instructions. 

Your attorney is working to develop a defense strategy that gives you the best chance of a positive outcome in your criminal case. Do not make his job more difficult by refusing to follow his advice.

To learn more, call our Cincinnati criminal defense law firm at (513) 333-0014 or visit our contact us page to send us an email.