Accessory to murder is a term that often comes up in murder cases. It’s also one that many people don’t fully understand. If a person is an accessory to murder it means that there is evidence that while they didn’t actually murder another person, either before or after the incident, they helped the person who was actually guilty of the murder.
An example of someone who could be charged as an accessory to murder before the murder took place is someone who either provided the murder weapon or the location of the victim. In this situation, the person accused of being an accessory had to know that the person they gave the information to intended to murder the victim. In many of these types of cases, the accused is also charged with aiding and abetting.
An accessory to murder that gets involved after the murder takes place is possibly someone who helps dispose of the body/evidence are who deliberately misleads police by providing false information when they’re interviewed.
One of the interesting things about people who are charged with accessory to murder is that they are often nowhere near the scene of the crime when it actually takes place.
Accessory to murder after the offense is one of California’s wobbler laws. The prosecution will look at the details surrounding both the case and your involvement with it. Based on this, they will decide if they want to pursue a felony or misdemeanor charge.
If you’re convicted of misdemeanor accessory to murder after the fact, the maximum sentence is:
- A fine that maxes out at $5,000
- 12 months in a county jail
A felony accessory to murder after the fact also has a sentence that could include a $5,000 fine. The judge can also order you to spend up to three years in a state prison.
Getting charged with accessory to murder before the fact is treated far more seriously than an after the fact charge. The fact that you assisted before the murder took place indicates premeditation. This is always treated as a felony and in many situations, the potential sentence can mirror the sentence the principle offender, or the person who is actually charged with the murder, faces. This means that if they could be sentenced to life in prison, you could be too.
Potential defenses in cases where you’ve been charged with aiding and abetting a murder or accessory to murder before the fact include that you were coerced and not acting of your own free will or that you honestly didn’t know what the principal offender was going to do.