Being an accessory to a crime in Kentucky can result in a serious jail sentence and other penalties. You do not have to commit the crime to be convicted and sentenced to the same punishment as the person who committed the crime. To be an accessory, all you have to do is help the person before or after the crime is committed.

You do not need to be part of the planning of the crime, nor do you need to know the crime will be committed. If you are not careful, the police could arrest you as an accessory before or after the fact even though you did not intend to be a part of the criminal activity.

Accessory Before the Fact vs. Accessory After the Fact

Being an accessory before or after the fact is a crime. However, these charges are different criminal offenses. 

Being an accessory before the fact means that you aided, abetted, assisted, encouraged, or incited someone in committing a crime. You do not need to know exactly when the crime will be committed or be present when it happens to be charged as an accessory before the fact.

An example of an accessory before the fact would be giving someone the security code to your place of employment so they can commit theft. Another example would be telling someone when a person will be at a specific place so they can commit assault.

Being an accessory after the fact means that you gave shelter, aid, or assistance to someone who committed a crime so they could avoid arrest or punishment. An accessory after the fact may have given someone financial assistance, lied to the police, withheld information from the police, or helped clean up a crime scene after a homicide. Other examples of acts that might result in an accessory after the fact charge include buying someone a bus ticket in your name or giving them your car to escape drug charges.

The State Has the Burden of Proof

The state must prove that you knew that a crime was going to be or had been committed to charge you as an accessory. The prosecutor must prove that you intended to aid in the commission of a crime or cover up a crime after it was committed.

For that reason, it is always best for you to exercise your right to remain silent if you are questioned by police or arrested on accessory charges. Do not make a statement or say anything without a criminal defense lawyer present.

Anything you say could be used as evidence in court. That includes statements to the police, written communication between you and the other party, and testimony from witnesses. 

Are There Defenses to an Accessory Charge?

Your criminal defense lawyer reviews the charges against you and the facts of the case. Based on the evidence and other factors, there could be one or more defenses to the accessory charges.

If the state drops the criminal charges against the other party or they are found not guilty, you can argue that a crime was not committed. You cannot be an accessory to a crime that was not committed.

Your lawyer may argue that you lacked intent. Your conduct may not have been an intentional act to aid or abet a criminal. For example, you may not have known that your boyfriend took your keycard to enter your office after hours to steal computers. 

Also, if the person who committed the crime threatened you to procure your help, you might have a valid defense. You would need to prove that your life or the life of someone else was in danger. If so, the court could find that you lacked the intent to be an accessory because you were under duress. 

Lack of knowledge may also be a valid defense against accessory charges. You may not have known that your friend had committed a crime when he asked to stay at your place. Likewise, you may not have known that a co-worker would steal money when they asked you to give them the keys to the petty cash box.

Never Assume Your Innocence Will Prevail – You Always Need a Lawyer if You Are Charged with a Crime

Regardless of whether you knew you were acting an accessory or not, you need to consult legal counsel as soon as possible. The charges against you are serious. Make sure you have a legal team on your side who can help you aggressively fight the charges.