Who are accessories?

Accessories are persons who aid or contribute to the commission or concealment of a felony.

Who are accessories before the fact?

An accessory before the fact assists felons in planning to commit a crime or encourage the commission of the crime.

Who are accessories after the fact?

Under section 32 of Title 2 Part 1 of the California Penal Code, an accessory after the fact is a person who harbors, hides or conceals and aids a person who has committed a crime. The accessory knows that the principal has committed a crime and persists in helping the principal to avoid arrest, trial, conviction or punishment.

What do accessories after the fact do?

They assist a person who has committed a felony. They assist the felon after he had committed the felony. The accessory renders aid to the felon knowing that they had committed a felony. They commit acts that may constitute obstruction of justice because they hide or conceal the person who committed the felony so that they can avoid arrest, conviction or punishment.

How does an accomplice differ from an accessory?

An accomplice is present when the felony is committed. An accessory may not be present when the crime is committed as the accessory’s aid is given before or after the commission of the crime.

How does an accessory-before-the-fact differ from an accessory-after-the-fact?

An accessory before the fact may be found criminally liable just like accomplices. Accessories after the fact may be found criminally liable for obstruction of justice. They may be fined.

In the case of Stuart Lankford v. Idaho (88-7247), 500 US 110 (1991), two brothers were indicted for first-degree murder. The two brothers wanted to steal the Volkswagen bus of a couple who were camping in the woods. The elder brother made the husband kneel and hit him across the back of the neck, thus killing him. When the wife came up from the river carrying water, the elder brother made the wife kneel and hit her across the back of the neck.

The court found them guilty of murder. The prosecutor notified the court that she would not ask for the death penalty but recommended imprisonment that would total 20 years. The judge disagreed with the prosecutor during the sentencing hearing and thought that the recommended prison term was too light a penalty seeing that the murder was committed with cruelty. He sentenced the brothers to death. The younger brother appealed.

He claimed that he was only an accessory after the fact. His older brother dominated him, and he was afraid of his older brother who was violent and dangerous. He thought that his brother would only knock out the couple when they entered the couple’s camp. He also testified that he became hysterical after the murders and he stayed in the van, crying. His brother hid the couple’s bodies in the woods.

The judge found them both equally guilty as the statutes of Idaho did not require the Prosecutor to prove that the younger brother actually committed the act that caused the murder. The Prosecutor only need to prove that the younger brother was present and that he aided the commission of the crime. Both the brothers were engaged in committing robbery. Thus, when the older brother committed the murder while committing the robbery, both were guilty of Murder.

The Supreme Court ruled that while both the brothers were guilty of murder as it was committed during the commission of a robbery in which they both participated, the penalty of death was not proper. In the pre-sentencing order, the Prosecutor said that he was no longer seeking the death penalty. Thus, the brothers were not informed or notified that they could still be facing the death penalty. They did not have the opportunity to present evidence of mitigating circumstances and appeal for mercy. They could no longer argue or present evidence that the death penalty was inappropriate. The case was remanded to Idaho for further proceedings to determine the penalty which should be imposed on the brothers.

What happens to the accessory when the principal is acquitted of the crime committed?

A person accused of aiding and abetting another person in committed a federal offense can be convicted of being an accessory to a crime even if the principal, the person who actually committed the crime was acquitted.

This is the holding of the US Supreme Court in the case of Standefer v. US 447 U.S. 10 (1980). Standefer was indicted for offering and making gifts to an IRS agent – a criminal act of bribery. The US Code provides that a person who aids, abets, counsels and commands the commission of accepting unlawful compensation will be tried and punished as a principal. Later, the IRS agent was acquitted of the charges. Standefer then asked the District Court to dismiss the charges against him because the IRS agent was acquitted of the crimes with which he was charged. The District Court refused to dismiss the criminal indictment and proceeded to convict him. The Court of Appeals affirmed the conviction. The Supreme Court upheld the conviction.

What is the punishment of an accessory to a crime?

Under Section 33 of the California Penal Code, an accessory is punished by a fine not to exceed $5,000.00 or by imprisonment in a county jail for a period not exceeding one year. A judge may sentence the accused of both the payment of a fine and imprisonment.

Are you facing charges as an accessory? Do you need assistance or legal advice? Do you want to know what possible penalties you may be facing as an accessory? Call the criminal defense attorneys at Ramiro J. Lluis Law Office. They are competent and willing to help. Call them today.