An accessory crime is charged if an individual is alleged to have assisted, maintained or gave aid to an offender with the intent to assist the offender in avoiding detection, arrest, trial, punishment or to escape. If an offender committed a capital felony the accessory charge is a first degree felony. If an offender committed a first degree felony or a life felony, the accompanying accessory charge is a second degree felony. And in cases where the offender committed a second or third degree felony, the accompanying accessory offense can be a third degree felony or a first degree misdemeanor. This depends on the offense ranking of the second or third degree felony charged to the principal.
The first step is distinguishing a principal from one who is an accessory. The principal is the person actually responsible for any given crime. The accessory is usually an individual who did not directly participate in the commission of a crime. The accessory is rarely present during the commission of the actual crime. If two or more individuals are directly responsible for a crime they will all be charged as principals, and not as accessories. The basic litmus test used to decipher whether an individual is a principal or an accessory is whether the defendant independently contributed to the commission of the crime, rather than merely giving limited assistance and encouragement.
There are usually three elements to most aiding and abetting charges. They are that another person committed a crime. Second, that the individual being charged as an accessory had knowledge of the crime or the principal’s intent to commit the crime. And third, that the individual charged as an accessory provided some form of assistance to the principal.