Accessory is when a person assists in a crime, however that person is not present when the offense takes place. The person is not the chief actor but instead is a participant. Another way to look at this in legal terms is one who aids or counsels another person in the commission of a crime.
An accessory must encourage or aid the offense deliberately, not by accident. The accessory must knowingly contribute to the crime. This person can still refuse to assist or withdraw from the crime by contacting the police or even trying to stop the crime from occurring.
Accessory before the fact
This is exactly what it sounds like. It is when someone orders a crime to take place and or helps someone else commit it. Don’t confuse this with an accomplice. An accomplice might be present at the crime, an accessor may not.
Accessory after the fact
This is when someone knows that a crime has happened and still helps to conceal the crime. There are other terms for this such as obstructing justice.
Jail time for this offense
Federal laws state that a penalty for the crime of accessory should not exceed half the maximum time that a principal receives.« Back to Glossary Index