Aiding and abetting can occur either before or after a crime has occurred. In Mississippi, if you have aided and abetted a criminal after a crime has been committed, you are said to be an "accessory after the fact". In order to be convicted of this, it must be proven that you knew the criminal had committed a crime and you helped them in some way to evade arrest or prosecution (after the commission of said crime).
For many people who are charged with aiding and abetting, the part that causes confusion is trying to understand what type of "help" actually qualifies. Unfortunately, the answer to that question includes just about anything you can think of, from giving a loved one a place to crash for the night to letting them borrow money and even something as simple as giving them advice or support by phone. Those acts may seem innocent enough, especially if you're dealing with a family member or close friend. If you know that they've committed a crime, though, you absolutely can be held accountable for any type of assistance that you offer.
Other examples of how you can become an accessory after the fact include:
- Buying anything, including basic necessities, that may help a criminal "get by" until he or she is capable of getting those things for themselves (that is to say, once the dust settles).
- Hiding evidence
- Lying to police about the criminal's whereabouts or anything else relating to the crime
- Transporting the criminal, either locally or across county or state lines
- Hiding the criminal in your home or on your property in an effort to help them evade law enforcement
Unfortunately, you do not have to be present in order to be considered an accessory to a crime. Once you have knowledge of a crime that has occurred (or is about to occur), you are on very shaky ground.
If you are more closely involved in the crime, however, the concept of "concert of action" may apply. With concert of action, both parties are held equally responsible for their coordinated efforts. An example that is commonly used to explain concert of action is drag racing. If two people are drag racing and a pedestrian is hit, both parties will be held liable for any resulting injuries or fatality, because the event was a result of the two people acting "in concert" with one another.
Being charged as an accessory to a crime can come as quite the shock. In many cases, it's a simple matter of helping a loved one in a time of perceived need... then, finding yourself charged with a crime, as well. If you are in this very stressful situation, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands exactly how these cases work, and you should make that call as soon as possible.
Our team of criminal defense lawyers are available to discuss your circumstances, and we will explain your options in terms that will be easy to understand.
Contact the skilled and proven team at Coxwell & Associates, PLLC at (601) 948-1600 for a free case consultation.
Disclaimer: This blog is intended as general information purposes only, and is not a substitute for legal advice. Anyone with a legal problem should consult a lawyer immediately.