If you watch crime dramas on TV, you have probably heard the term “accessory after the fact” — but like most people, you may not know what the term means or what the crime involves. Being an accessory to a felony in Muskogee, Oklahoma is a crime all on its own. And it is a crime that is usually born out of our desire to help a loved one who has run afoul of the law and is in trouble.
We all want to help a loved one who gets into trouble with the law. But you must be careful about how you do it. Otherwise, you may be in trouble too.
Accessory to a Felony in Muskogee Defined
In Muskogee, a person committing a crime is classified as either a “principal” or an “accessory.” Okla. Stat. 21 § 171
A principal is legally defined as the person who is concerned in the commission of a crime, acting directly or indirectly in its commission. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 172
An accessory is someone who conceals or aids the offender after the commission of the crime, knowing that the offender has committed a felony in Muskogee.
In order to be convicted, the accessory must have taken these actions with the intent to help the offender avoid or escape arrest, trial, conviction or punishment. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 173
A prosecutor must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction. Here are the elements of this crime:
- actively conceals or aids the offender;
- after the commission of a felony;
- with the knowledge that the offender has committed the felony; and
- with the intent that the offender avoid or escape arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment.
Knowledge and intent are key elements of this crime. The accessory must know that the offender committed the crime and that with that knowledge, actively conceal or aid the offender with the intent to help them escape arrest or punishment.
Intent can be difficult to prove. Often a prosecutor will try to prove intent with circumstantial evidence such as a defendant’s words or actions outside of the actual hiding or aiding. For example, if the accessory worriedly confides to a friend about the situation, the contents of that conversation may be used as evidence of intent.
How Loved Ones Get Involved
It is frightening when a loved one is facing the possibility of charges or jail time for a crime. It can be tempting to try to shield them by helping them evade arrest, or worse, by destroying evidence. Here is a scenario that is often the way this crime plays out.
Your son is 19 years old and has a drug habit. Unemployed, he has no real money to support that habit. So, one day, he robs a person to get money for drugs. Robbery is a felony in Oklahoma.
When he gets home, you realize what he has done. You send him out of state to go live with his aunt rather than report the matter to the police or convince him to turn himself in. You are now an accessory to a felony.
The underlying crime must be a felony. Okla. Stat. tit, 21 § 174
If the underlying crime is a misdemeanor, you cannot be convicted of being an accessory.
Penalties are Harsh
Penalties are directly related to the felony involved and the penalty for that felony. If the underlying felony is one that is punishable by four years or more in prison, an accessory can be sentenced up to 1/2 the maximum penalty allowed for that felony. If the felony is punishable by less than four years, you could face up to a year in county jail. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 175
If the underlying felony is punishable by a fine, the accessory may be fined up to half that amount. And if the felony is subject to both a fine and a jail sentence, an accessory could end up paying up to 1/2 of the fine amount and serving 1/2 the longest jail time that can be imposed for that felony.
A conviction for accessory to murder carries a harsh penalty. If the underlying offense is murder in the first degree, the accessory must serve between 5 and 45 years in prison. If the underlying offense is murder in the second degree, an accessory may serve between 5 and 25 years in prison.
Think before you help a loved one in trouble with the law. If you have already stepped into those shoes, you want to make sure that you get help. A Muskogee attorney can help you understand what defenses may be available to you and can help you protect your rights and freedom.
Free Consultation: Muskogee Criminal Defense Attorney
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