Helping someone evade justice after they’ve committed a crime violates Florida Statute 777.03, which makes you an Accessory After the Fact. It’s illegal to knowingly help someone who committed a felony to “avoid or escape detection, arrest, trial, or punishment.” The law exempts immediate family members; a brother or sister, husband or wife, parents, grandparents, children, or grandchildren. While the law exempts immediate relations, extended family is not exempt. Prosecutors often bring cases of accessory after the fact against a perpetrator’s cousins or in-laws. People running from the law also often ask friends or co-workers for help.
Prosecutors may charge you as an accessory after the fact if you help a person avoid the law in any way. For example, throwing the police off the trail by lying that you haven’t seen a suspect or covering for the person (he was with me here in my home when that store got robbed). Prosecutors may bring charges for lending a suspect your car so they could get out of town to avoid a warrant.
Is Accessory After the Fact a Felony?
It can be. If you agree to help someone after you know they committed a crime, the law charges you as an accessory to that crime. For example, a friend or cousin shows up at your door. You agree to hide his gun in your attic because he just held up a liquor store and the cops are after him. If you do that, a prosecutor may charge you with being an Accessory After the Fact to Robbery with a Deadly Weapon. If you help him get rid of his blood-stained shirt, they may charge you with Accessory After the Fact to Felony Murder. The severity of the perpetrator’s crime determines the seriousness of the charges against an accessory.
Sentences can range from probation and fines to long prison terms.
Defense of Accessory After the Fact Charges
As with any case, a criminal defense attorney can make pretrial motions to suppress evidence (if the police violated procedure). A lawyer can make motions to dismiss the charges altogether if the prosecution’s case is weak. If the case goes to court, your lawyer may present mitigating evidence that your act was not intentional. A good attorney will use whatever measures or tactics are appropriate in your defense.
It’s important to talk with an attorney as soon as possible. Naturally, you’ll want the best criminal defense lawyer available. Consider the Orlando Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Rivas Law Firm. Call 407-644-2466 to talk to an expert attorney and discuss your options.