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What makes someone an accessory after the fact?

| May 18, 2021 | criminal defense

Sometimes, people aren’t involved in the commission of a crime, but they somehow get involved in helping someone else evade arrest or conviction. They may lie to authorities, dispose of evidence or help someone avoid the police.

Failure to report a crime isn’t illegal in most states unless it’s abuse or neglect of a vulnerable person, like a child. Mandatory reporters, in particular, have a legal duty to report known or suspected abuse. However, intentionally helping someone conceal a crime and/or avoid capture is. It’s called various things under different state laws. Sometimes it’s called “aiding and abetting.” Often, as in Tennessee, the crime is “accessory after the fact.”

Even if you were nowhere near the scene of the original crime and didn’t know it was occurring, you could still face accessory after the fact charges. Maybe you agreed to let someone stash a weapon or stolen goods in your home. Perhaps you told authorities the person was with you all evening when they weren’t. Those are two common examples. 

What does Tennessee law say?

Under Tennessee law, accessory after the fact applies to felony crimes. To be charged, the person must have had “knowledge or reasonable ground to believe that the offender has committed the felony.” An accessory after the fact charge is a Class E felony.

If your friend asks you to keep a knife at your home for a while because they say they don’t want their child to get it and hurt themselves while they’re visiting, that’s one thing – as long as you have no reason to believe they used it to commit a crime. If they tell you they stabbed someone and ask you to hide the knife for them, that’s another.

If you’re facing accessory after the fact charges, then the circumstances surrounding your alleged offense will likely determine your chances of being convicted. Can you make the case, for example, that you had no reason to believe that your friend had done something wrong when they showed up at your house and put bloody clothes into the trash? If the police came knocking asking if you knew anything and you claimed not to, then you may have a problem on your hands. 

If you’re facing these charges, then you need to take them seriously. An experienced criminal defense attorney can help you protect your rights and work to mitigate the consequences.