It’s hard to put aside your loyalties to your friends or relatives when they come asking for a favor – even when you know it’s wrong. That’s exactly how a lot of people end up charged with the crime of being an “accessory after the fact.”
Essentially, an accessory after the fact is any accomplice to a crime that helps the principal actors evade justice.
What does being an accessory after the fact look like?
You can become an accessory after the fact in numerous ways. For example:
- Your best friend has just committed some type of computer fraud. They ask you to take their computer and destroy the hard drive for them, which you do.
- Your brother shows up at your house in the middle of the night, clearly fresh from a fight and covered in blood. You lie to the police for him and tell them he was at your home all evening and never left.
- Your ex-husband, the father of your children, asks you to hide a gun and a motorcycle in your barn, and you do it – even after you find out that the bike was involved in a murder in another state.
Under the law, that makes you an accessory to whatever underlying crime was committed, even if you didn’t know the details at the time.
How can you be punished for being an accessory after the fact?
In Maryland, you’ll be charged with a felony, and you can face either five years in prison or the maximum penalty for the underlying crime (whichever is less). However, if the underlying crime is murder, you face up to 10 years in prison upon conviction.
If you find yourself in a difficult spot and the authorities start throwing around terms like “accessory” or “accomplice,” make sure that you immediately assert your rights and seek experienced legal assistance.