One of the more confusing criminal charges California has is the accessory after the fact. Many people don’t know that it’s possible to get into trouble for a crime that they weren’t involved with until well after the crime happened.
California law stipulates that anyone who basically takes steps to hinder a criminal investigation could be charged with accessory after the fact. This means that if you help or conceal a loved one who has committed a crime, you will likely find yourself in hot legal water.
An accessory after the fact charge isn’t something you should joke about. It’s a felony that comes with a potential sentencing that includes a three-year stay in one of California’s state prisons.
Accessory after the fact charges are touched on in California’s Penal Code 32 PC. It states that: “Every person who, after a felony has been committed, harbors, conceals or aids a principal in such felony, with the intent that said principal may avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction or punishment, having knowledge that said principal has committed such felony or has been charged with such felony or convicted thereof, is an accessory to such felony.”
What it doesn’t get into is how serious a charge is or how to prepare to defend yourself against the charge.
Examples of things that could result in your being charged with accessory of the fact include:
- Giving a person of interest a ride so they can evade law enforcement
- Providing a person of interest with a place to stay and failing to let the authorities know
- Giving someone money so they can run from criminal charges
- Knowing that someone has committed a crime and failing to tell the police
One of the key components to being convicted of accessory after the fact is that you must know that the person your aiding was involved in a crime and/or that the police are actively looking for them. You can’t be charged with anything if you didn’t realize the friend who is sleeping on your couch was wanted in connection with the crime.
On the other hand, if the friend on your couch tells you that they committed a crime and you do nothing, the police and DA could decide to file accessory after the fact charges against you.
The best way to avoid accessory after the fact charges is to be upfront and honest with the police if they knock on your front door and start asking you questions about a recent crime.