Everybody wants to help a friend or loved one in their time of need – but an abundance of empathy at the wrong moment can land you in a lot of legal trouble.
If you help, harbor or otherwise knowingly assist someone who committed a crime with the intention to hinder their arrest or prosecution, you can be charged with being an accessory after the fact.
What does that mean?
There are many different things that can lead to charges of being an accessory after the fact, but things like that usually start with a rash response to a sudden situation. Here are some examples of how it can happen:
- Your brother hops the fence at the local jail after being arrested and is on the run. He shows up at your door and, although you know he’s a fugitive, you give him cash, a burner phone and your car so that he can escape.
- Your best friend is driving you home and you’ve both had too much to drink. Your friend hits a pedestrian and flees the scene in a panic. Equally panicked, you agree to let your friend hide their car in your garage so he isn’t arrested.
- Your younger sister works at the same company as you. She admits that she’s been embezzling money from the business and asks you to help cover it up until she figures out a way to put the money back. You agree to do it.
Doing the wrong thing (even if you do it for what seems like the right reason) can leave you in real legal danger. If you’re convicted, you could face a prison term of up to five years (more, if the underlying offense is a felony or murder).
It’s important to fully discuss your defense options with someone who understands the law.