What Does it Mean if You Are an Accessory to a Crime in Ohio?
You could face criminal charges if you have been accused of helping someone commit a crime or assisting someone with a crime in Hamilton County or elsewhere in Ohio. The penalties could be severe if you face charges for being an accessory to a crime.
Your criminal defense attorney will need to closely evaluate the circumstances of your case to determine how to best approach your defense strategy.
At Luftman, Heck & Associates, our criminal lawyers are here to help you get your charges reduced, dismissed, or advocate for your freedom at trial. Learn more about what to expect if you have been charged with being an accessory to a crime when you read on.
What Is an Accessory?
To be an accessory to a crime means that you are accused of intentionally, knowingly, and voluntarily participating in a crime.
You do not need to be present at the time of the crime to be charged as an accessory. If you were involved in any of the planning stage phases of the crime, you could face criminal penalties.
Accessory vs. Accomplice
Being an accessory to or aiding and abetting a crime means that you were involved in planning a crime. However, being an accomplice to a crime is a separate offense. Accomplices to crimes will actively help someone else commit a crime.
Under Ohio law, accomplices will be sentenced the same way the primary perpetrator is for the crime. For this reason, if you have been charged as an accomplice, the consequences could be far more severe than if you had been charged as an accessory.
Accessory Before the Fact
To be an accessory before the fact means that you encouraged, aided, assisted, or abetted someone else in a crime. For example, if you give the keys to a family member’s home to someone else to use in a burglary, you could be charged as an accessory before the fact.
Accessory After the Fact
Being an accessory after the fact means that you helped someone avoid punishment or arrest, or provided them with shelter, first aid, or any other type of assistance after you learned that they committed a crime.
For example, if someone came to you for help cleaning up a crime scene, you could be charged with accessory after the fact if you participated.
Legal Elements to Prove Accessory
If the prosecutor hopes to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, they will need to show that the elements of the accessory to a crime apply. The legal elements of this offense include:
- The defendant knew that a crime had been or was going to be committed
- The defendant intentionally assisted the person in committing a crime or covering up the crime to help the perpetrator escape
The prosecutor may introduce evidence such as communication exchanges, witness statements, recorded conversations, expert testimony, forensic evidence, and DNA to show that a defendant knew about a crime before or after the fact.
However, a conviction may not be possible if they cannot show that the defendant intentionally knew of the crime. Your attorney can review the specific details of your case to determine whether challenging your intent is a viable defense in your case.
Defenses to Accessory Charges
The consequences for accessory to a crime could be severe. Fortunately, if you are a first-time offender, the prosecutor may be willing to allow you to enter a pretrial diversion program or offer a plea agreement.
You will be required to meet the terms of the agreement to get your charges dismissed or reduced. Failure to meet the terms of your agreement or program means you could face a harsh sentence for a conviction.
If you are not a first-time offender or the circumstances of your case do not warrant a plea agreement or pretrial diversion program, several defenses could be used to challenge the accessory charges against you. These include:
- No crime was committed
- Lack of knowledge or intent
- Mistake of fact
- Constitutional rights violations
- You were acting under duress
Essentially, challenging the elements of the offense is where your attorney may have the most success in Introducing reasonable doubt in the minds of the judge and jury. You can learn more about which defenses may be most suited for your case when you contact your criminal defense lawyer for help.
What to Do if You’re Charged as an Accessory in Ohio
If you have been charged as an accessory to a crime before or after the fact, you must take steps to protect yourself. Here is what to do first:
- Invoke your right to remain silent and ask to speak to your criminal defense attorney. Never give law enforcement officials a statement or answer questions.
- Do not speak to your friends or family about the offense. Anything you say to them could be later used against you at trial if they are subpoenaed as witnesses.
- Go over your plea and bail options with your attorney before your initial hearing so you can get home to your family
Once you have been released on bail, you can work with your lawyer to determine how to best approach your defense. In some cases, you may be able to work with the prosecutor. In others, presenting a compelling defense strategy may be the best way to obtain a favorable outcome in your case.
Contact a Criminal Defense Attorney In Cincinnati for Help
Accusations for being an accessory to a crime could have a devastating impact on your life. If you face criminal charges and don’t know where to turn for help, reach out to an experienced Cincinnati criminal defense lawyer at Luftman, Heck & Associates.