Some people may dismiss information about being charged with criminal activity because they believe they will never be in that position. But imagine that one of your closest friends explains to you that they have just committed a serious crime. Now that you know that a law has been broken, are you an accomplice or an accessory? Could you actually be charged with a crime? 

Anyone can find themselves in a compromising situation without deliberating seeking it out. By understanding what an accomplice and an accessory are, you can protect yourself.

Accomplice & Accessory 

These are two terms that people may use without fully understanding the difference. To be an accomplice is to be complicit in the crime. An accomplice is someone who knowingly, voluntarily or intentionally gives assistance to another person and usually is present when the crime is committed. Oftentimes, this person is labeled as a co-defendant in the case.  For example, the person driving the getaway car for the individual that will be entering into the jewelry store to commit a burglary. An accomplice is someone who can be held criminally liable in the same way that a principal is liable. 

On the other hand, an accessory is generally someone who is not present at the time the crime was committed but assisted in some way. People can be accessories before the crime has been committed and after it. Using the previous scenario, think of an employee of the jewelry store who turns off the alarm before heading home, knowing that their friend will be entering in the middle of the night to steal. Or it could be as simple as giving the friend the times that the security guard goes on break in order to assist in the crime being committed. An accessory before the fact can be treated the same as the person who committed the crime. 

On the other hand, if someone were to come to you after stealing from the jewelry store, you could become an accessory after the fact—if you hide the person or even the stolen property. A key element of this is knowing that the person did something illegal and assisting them after the fact. 

Although only an attorney will be in the best position to know if you are an accessory to a crime, there is usually an understanding that a crime occurred. Consider the landlord who learns that a fugitive has been apprehended on one of their rental properties. If they didn’t know about the fugitive or the crime, they would likely not be accessories to the crime. 

Puglisi Law 

If you or someone you know has been arrested and charged with a crime—to include being an accomplice or an accessory—contact Puglisi Law to receive a free consultation. Your actions (intentional or unintentional) have consequences, and you deserve professional legal counseling to ensure your rights are protected. We also can provide you assistance if you are under investigation or have received a grand jury subpoena to testify.