What is an Accessory After the Fact?
The hunt for a gunman responsible for a fatal Monrovia shooting has come to a close. Earlier this week police arrested Jeremiah LaCroix after he surrendered himself at a Los Angeles correctional facility. LaCroix, who was also wanted in connection with a gang-related shooting, is reportedly responsible for killing one and injuring two others during a December 2nd shooting at a bar in Monrovia. Police have also arrested and charged LaCroix’s mother and father for helping their son avoid arrest after the shooting. Each parent faces criminal charges for being an accessory after the fact.
What Does it Mean to be an Accessory After the Fact?
In California, it is a crime to help another person evade arrest after they commit a crime. You can face criminal charges for being an accessory after the fact, as defined in California Penal Code 32 PC, if you:
- Knowingly harbor, conceal, or aid a person who has committed a felony;
- With the intent to help that person avoid or escape arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment.
This means that you do not have to participate in the actual commission of the other person’s crime. Simply hiding that person from police, lying to police about that person’s whereabouts, or buying a ticket to allow that person to leave town undetected are all behaviors that could make you an accessory after the fact.
It is important to understand that you must have knowledge of the other person’s criminal conduct in order to be considered an accessory after the fact. You cannot be convicted of this crime if you were not aware that the person you are helping has committed a crime. However, you can gain this knowledge at any time. If you agree to let a person stay in your home, and then learn that this person has committed a crime and is hiding from police in your home, you will be considered to have the required knowledge for this crime. Continuing to harbor this person can result in criminal charges for being an accessory after the fact.
Conduct That May Result in Criminal Charges
Penal Code 32 PC states that it is a crime to “harbor, conceal, or aid” a person to help them “avoid or escape arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment.” This is a fairly broad definition that could potentially include a lot of different behaviors. Here are a few examples of behaviors that would probably make you an accessory after the fact:
- Allowing your brother, who you know just killed another person in a fit of rage, to hide out in your basement while police canvass the neighborhood;
- Getting rid of the gun that your friend used to threaten his ex so that he would not be convicted;
- Flushing cocaine down the toilet after your son is arrested for selling drugs;
- Driving a getaway car after your friend robs a local bank; and
- Intentionally lying to police to mislead them during a criminal investigation.
Penalties for Being an Accessory After the Fact
If you are accused of being an accessory after the fact you can be charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. The severity of the charge will depend on the specific facts of your situation and your own history of criminal behavior.
Misdemeanor Accessory After the Fact: A misdemeanor charge for being an accessory after the fact is punishable by up to one year in a Los Angeles County jail, $5,000 in criminal fines, summary probation, and/or community service.
Felony Accessory After the Fact: A felony charge for being an accessory after the fact is punishable by 16 months, two years, or three years in a California state prison, $5,000 in criminal fines, formal probation, and/or community service.
Defending Accessory After the Fact Charges
In order to convict you of this crime, Los Angeles prosecutors must be able to prove that you knowingly helped a person avoid arrest, conviction, or punishment after they committed a felony. If they cannot establish each element of the crime you cannot be convicted. You can make it difficult for the prosecution to satisfy their burden of proof by asserting legal arguments that explain, excuse, or justify your alleged behavior. When these arguments are successful you are more likely to have the charges against you reduced or dismissed. Defenses that may be helpful include:
- No felony was committed;
- You were an innocent bystander;
- You did not know that a felony had been committed;
- You did not intend to help the person avoid or escape arrest, conviction, or punishment; and
- You have been falsely accused or mistakenly identified.
Fighting Accessory After the Fact Charges in Los Angeles
If you are accused of being an accessory to a crime after the fact it is important to speak with an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney as soon as you can. The Rodriguez Law Group, led by former prosecutor Ambrosio Rodriguez, can help to minimize the consequences of your arrest. Call us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more. We will thoroughly review your case, determine the best strategy for defense, and explain your legal rights. Your future is on the line, so do not hesitate to call us today.
Last Updated on March 7, 2022