Aiding, abetting, and accessory before or after the fact are terms used by criminal lawyers quite frequently. Each state in the United States defines these terms differently, so those accused of aiding and abetting a crime or being an accessory should be aware of the relevant interpretations under Florida law. Criminal law in Florida is also distinguished between an accomplice, who takes active part in the commissioning of the crime, and an accessory after the fact.
The Fort Lauderdale lawyers at William Moore Criminal Defense state that a person can be accused of aiding and abetting a crime or being an accessory before or after the crime only if they fulfill some conditions: the person must have been aware of the intent to commit the crime and the person must have helped in committing the crime by providing some assistance. This assistance can be advice, financial or physical help.
Those who hire others to commit the crime are also considered accessories under Florida Law.
Florida’s law includes even those who were not present at the scene of the crime as accessories if they helped plan the crime or provided help to the principals in committing the crime.
This means that those who were aware of the principal’s plan but were unable to stop them or those who help a criminal without being aware of the fact that a crime is being committed cannot be accused of aiding and abetting a criminal. This means that the prosecution has to prove both intent and action before a person is convicted of aiding and abetting a crime.
Accessory Before the Fact
A person who helps a criminal commit a crime with the knowledge that it is a crime is termed an accessory before the fact.
Accessory after the Fact
A person who helps a criminal evade the law after they have committed a crime is considered an accessory after the fact if they are also aware that they are helping a criminal.
Florida law considers those who aid and abet a criminal either as accessories before the fact or accessories after the fact to be principals in the crime. This means that under Florida Law, accessories too will be punished for the crime, but the severity of punishment will be slightly reduced when compared to the principal criminal or co-conspirator.
However, Florida law places a lot of importance on intent. If the person accused of aiding and abetting a crime can establish that they did not intend to help in committing the crime, they cannot be punished for it.
A criminal lawyer/attorney can also help reduce the extent of punishment even if a person is accused of aiding and abetting a crime or being an accessory. Florida law also distinguishes between the intent to aid and abet a crime and the extent to which the principals extended the original crime plan. This means that a person who agreed to drive the principals away from a burglary cannot be accused of aiding and abetting an unplanned murder in which they did not participate.
Florida law also makes clear that spouses and relatives of the criminal accused can also be charged for aiding and abetting a criminal to either commit a crime or escape the consequences of the crime. The only exception to this rule is a victim of domestic abuse. Florida law makes clear that all other family members or any other person who helps a criminal evade the law can be charged as an accessory after the fact if they were aware that the person they were helping has committed a crime.
By William Moore