California law defines accessory after the fact as a crime committed following a felony. This occurs when you take the time to hide, help, or conceal a felon following their crime, and it’s punishable in the eyes of the law according to California penal code 32 PC. If you harbor, conceal, or aid anyone who you know just committed a felony crime, you are guilty. You are an accessory after the fact. This is illegal, and you can be arrested, charged, and convicted of a crime with serious penalties if you are caught.
What is an accessory after the fact?
If your sister decides she is going to kill her husband’s mistress and calls you to pick her up because she’s panicking and worried, you decide to pick her up and bring her home with you. She killed a woman, told you about it, and now you are allowing her to sleep at your home so the law cannot find her. You didn’t kill anyone. You didn’t know she was going to kill anyone, and you had no knowledge of this crime prior to her acting upon it. You did, however, pick her up and allow her to stay concealed in your home while the police were looking for her because you love her and want to protect you. You are an accessory after the fact.
If your sister called you following this crime and told you she would love to come visit for a few weeks, you might agree without hesitation. She doesn’t mention the fact she just killed the woman her husband is cheating on her with, and she also didn’t tell you that she was only visiting because she was hiding out. She simply said she would like to avoid seeing anyone because she just found out her husband was cheating, and she needs a place to hang out and drop off the grid while she processes this information. She might be using you to hide out, but you’re unaware of this.
Penalties for Being an Accessory After the Fact
California law considers this crime among its wobbler crimes. It can be a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the circumstances of the crime that was committed. Your criminal history can be the deciding factor whether you’re tried with a felony charge, and the details of the crime committed can also push you over that edge.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor accessory after the fact, you face up to a year in jail. If it’s a felony charge, you will spend a minimum of 16 months in a state prison, and that might extend as long as three years if the crime was bad enough.
If you were charged with an accessory after the fact crime, you do have a right to an attorney and a defense in a court of law. You are free to fight the charge, and you are innocent until you are proven guilty in a court of law. Your job is to work with your attorney to prove you are not guilty.
– You didn’t know there was a felony committed
– The crime was not a felony
– You were an innocent bystander
– You were under duress
– You were accused falsely
– You are a mistaken identity victim
For example, if your sister walked into your home, told you what she did, and then held a gun to your head while demanding you hide her out, you were under duress even though you broke the law and helped her hide out. It’s not uncommon for someone to be made an accessory after the fact when they are in a position they don’t see a way out of.
Call an attorney. If you are charged with this crime, you have a right to defend yourself. It’s one of the most commonly fought crimes in California as so many people haven’t a clue a crime was committed prior to harboring a fugitive. Let your attorney work to prove your innocence in court so you don’t spend the rest of your life living with a criminal record.