Accessory (aiding and abetting) is a derivative crimes that does not require the defendant to actually commit the crime. Accessory punishes those who help criminals commit crimes, while conspiracy punishes those who plan to commit crimes.
Anyone who knowingly helps another person to commit a crime may be convicted for being an accessory to the crime. In a bank robbery case, an accessory may
- drive the get-away car
- provide the money to buy the hold-up weapon
- give the principal perpetrator crucial information about the floor plan or security at the bank.
Any contribution to the crime may be grounds for accessory.
Accessory ‘after the fact’, such as sheltering a known criminal from police, may also be considered accessory, although it may not be punished as harshly as acts that contribute to the performance of the crime.
Sentences for accessory can be heavy because those charged with accessory may be considered to be as guilty of the crime that they helped to commit as the person that actually committed it.
A good defense lawyer will shield the defendant from heavy punishment by minimizing the role that the defendant played in the commission of the crime.
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