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Accessory After the Fact: Definitions and Potential Consequences

Being an accessory to a crime in Maryland, specifically for felonies, can entail significant penalties, ranging from imprisonment to fines. It is important to note that Maryland criminal law entails considerable grey areas in terms of sentencing for such cases. Given this fact and its implications for individuals facing criminal charges, we wished to provide an overview of how Maryland defines being an accessory after the fact, its penalties, and how it is prosecuted in other states.

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How Maryland Defines Being an “Accessory After the Fact”

In Maryland, the legal system considers all parties to a crime to be accomplices; however, the law differentiates between accessories before the fact, principals, and accessories after the fact. Additionally, a felony must have been committed in order for a suspect to be a party with the principal being the party who carried out the crime and the accessory assisting. Outside of Maryland, being an accessory is commonly referred to as “aiding and abetting;” however, Maryland lacks an exact statue for this act.

Common examples of being an accessory to a crime include:

  • Planning the crime with the principal
  • Serving as a distraction or getaway for the principal
  • Covering up or getting rid of evidence
  • Providing false testimony

What Sentence Does “Accessory after the Fact” in Maryland Carry?

According to Maryland Code, Criminal Law § 1-301, an accessory after the fact charge carries the following penalties if found guilty:

(1) Imprisonment not exceeding 5 years;  or
(2) A penalty not exceeding the maximum penalty provided by law for committing the underlying felony.
(b) (1) A person who is convicted of being an accessory after the fact to murder in the first degree is guilty of a felony and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.
(2) A person who is convicted of being an accessory after the fact to murder in the second degree is guilty of a felony and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 10 years.

How Maryland’s Laws Compare to Other States’

Across the US, there exists a gray area when it comes to criminal defense cases and sentencing for being an accessory to a crime. For context, consider the “Law of Parties,” which was the focus of a recent radio show segment featuring our attorney, Luke Woods.

This Texas law provides a wide berth when it comes to definitions around accessories and principals in criminal cases and punishments. The 2013 case involving classmates Enriquez Ruiz Gonzales and Logan Davidson provides an example of how severe penalties can be for someone as an accessory. Gonzalez was convicted of aggravated assault despite not throwing a punch and served a 50-day sentence while the principal, who was 16, received penalties, such as community service and paying restitution to the deceased’s family.

If You’re Seeking Help with Accessory Charges, We’re Here to Help

Work with the Albers & Associates team to help you navigate the legal process for your case and ensure you get the justice you deserve. We are available via a phone call to one of our six locations across Maryland or by using our case consultation request form.

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