February 8, 2021 | Indiana Law
If you did not commit a crime, why are you being charged with a crime? Under Indiana’s law, being an accessory before or after a crime could result in a criminal charge equal to the crime committed by the other person. Being charged as an accomplice could result in significant jail time and other penalties, depending on the crime committed.
Accessory Before a Crime vs. Accessory After a Crime
Being an accessory before the fact means that you aided or encouraged someone to commit a crime. You knew the person was going to commit a crime, and you knowingly assisted the person in committing the crime.
Even if you were not present when the crime was committed, you could be charged as an accessory if you knowingly helped the person plan the crime or obtain the tools to commit the crime.
For example, you provided a gun to someone you knew would use the gun to commit a theft or an assault. Another example might be assisting someone in planning a robbery or agreeing to be the get-away driver.
An accessory after the fact is a person who helped someone who committed a crime hide the crime and avoid arrest or punishment.
An example of an accessory after the fact is someone who destroys evidence of a hit-and-run accident or a DUI accident. Another example of an accessory after the fact would be someone who assists a person who committed homicide to leave the state.
To be an accessory after the fact, you have to know the person committed a crime. If you were unaware that a person committed a crime, you could not be held responsible for the crime as an accessory after the fact.
Indiana’s Complicity Law
According to Indiana Code §35-41-2-4, you can be charged with complicity if you intentionally or knowingly aid, induce, or cause another person to commit a crime. You may be charged with being an accessory even if the other person is not prosecuted for the offense, is acquitted of the offense, or is not convicted of the offense.
There is no specific penalty for being an accessory after the fact or an accessory before the fact. The sentence for being complicit depends on the crime committed.
Therefore, if you are charged as an accessory after the fact in a drug crime, your penalty could be the same as the person who committed the drug crime. Likewise, if your friend committed manslaughter, you could face the same jail term and punishment as your friend even though you did not kill someone.
Defending Yourself Against Charges of Being an Accessory To a Crime
The state must prove specific legal elements to obtain a conviction for being an accessory to a crime. The prosecutors must prove that:
- Another person committed a crime
- You induced, aided, or caused the other person to commit the crime or aided the person to hide the crime after the fact
- You knew about the crime and intentionally aided in the crime or covering up the crime
There are several ways to fight charges of being an accessory to a crime. You can attack the evidence the state has against you. For instance, if the evidence was obtained through an illegal search and seizure, you could file a motion to suppress the evidence so that it cannot be used against you in court.
You may argue that you were present at the scene of a crime, but that you had no prior knowledge that a person would commit a crime. You did not take any active steps to aid the person in committing the crime. You can also argue that the steps you took before or after a crime were without knowing that a crime would be or had been committed.
Another defense is the withdrawal of support before the crime is committed. You must prove that you took steps to negate any aid or encouragement to commit a crime. Your support must have been withdrawn before the crime was committed.
What Should You Do if You Are Charged as an Accessory to a Crime?
If you are arrested for being an accessory before or after a crime, do not talk to the police. Do not contact the person charged with committing the crime or anyone involved with the crime. The only person you need to talk to about the charges is a criminal defense lawyer.
Talking to the police could hurt your case. Anything you say might be used in court to argue your guilt. You need to exercise your right to remain silent except in asking for a lawyer.
You and your criminal defense attorney can review the facts and circumstances of the case to develop a defense strategy that gives you the best chance of beating the charges against you.