Accessory After the Fact Law & Defense
The law on the crime of accessory after the fact is found at California penal code section 32 (PC 32).
To be an accessory after the fact, means to harbor, conceal, or aid another person who committed a crime with the intent to help the person who committed the crime avoid arrest, conviction, or punishment.
In other words, an accessory after the fact is a person who knows that another person committed a crime and nevertheless helps that person avoid arrest after the crime is committed. For example, giving a false alibi for someone who committed a crime is an accessory after the fact. Other examples include giving money to someone to help them while they are avoiding capture, loaning someone a vehicle to avoid capture, cleaning or concealing evidence of another person's crime, etc.
No duty to report. A person is not guilty of being an accessory after the fact to a crime simply because the person knows that a crime occurred and does not report the crime to the police (there are limited exceptions to this rule). Also, a person who is present when another person commits a crime is not necessarily an accessory to a crime or an accessory after the fact to a crime. Finally, a person who is not aware of any criminal activity but nevertheless innocently aids another person who committed a crime is not criminally liable as an accessory after the fact.
To be an accessory after the fact is not the same as being an aider and abettor to a crime. An aider and abettor to a crime is a person who actually participated in committing a crime in some way.
For example: If a person arranges for a hideout for a defendant before the defendant commits a crime then the person is may be liable as an aider and abettor to the crime. However, if the person arranges for a hideout for a defendant only after the defendant commits a crime, and the person did not know that the defendant was going to commit a crime in the first place, then the person is liable as an accessory after the fact only (See PC 32).
Punishment for PC 32
According to PC 32, the crime of accessory after the fact may be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. If found guilty of accessory after the fact as a misdemeanor the defendant may be sentenced up to a year in the county jail. If the defendant is found guilty of accessory after the fact as a felony the defendant could face up to three years in prison.
In addition to any possible jail or prison sentences, if found guilty of accessory after the fact, the defendant may be punished with harsh probation or parole terms, insurmountable fines, immigration consequences (for non-U.S. citizens), employment restrictions, restraining orders, and more.
PC 32 is not considered a strike offense as the crime is not a serious or violent offense as defined by California's Three Strikes Law. If found guilty, the defendant may be granted probation as opposed to a jail or prison sentence. Whether or not a probation sentence is available depends largely on the circumstances of the case as well as the defendant's criminal history.
Defense to PC 32
Common defenses to penal code 32 includes: statute of limitations, mistake of fact, coerced confessions, duress, lack of jurisdiction, and more.
For more information on defenses to crime, including further information on the common defenses to PC 32, please visit defenses.
If you have been charged with accessory after the fact, or California PC 32, contact our criminal defense attorneys without delay for free consultation.
Our criminal defense attorneys will patiently explain your rights and options for defense. Our criminal defense attorneys are available seven days a week. Call today!
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