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Compounding Offense

COMPOUNDING OFFENSE

A criminal act in which a person agrees not to report the occurrence of a crime or not to prosecute a criminal offender in exchange for money or other consideration.

The offense is also committed when a person accepts remuneration for encouraging a witness to be absent from a trial or employs any unlawful tactics to delay a criminal proceeding.

Under the common law and most modern statutes a compounding offense consists of three basic elements: (1) knowledge of the crime; (2) the agreement not to prosecute or inform; and (3) the receipt of consideration. The offense is complete when there is an agreement to either withhold evidence of the crime, conceal it, or fail to prosecute it. A crime is not compounded when a person merely reacquires property previously stolen from him or her; the crime would further require that the return of the stolen property was conditioned on an agreement not to report or prosecute the crime.

The individual compounding the crime must be aware of the previous offense although the person who committed it need not be tried or convicted. The fact that the person who committed the previous crime is not tried until after the prosecution for compounding occurs is irrelevant.

The consideration can consist of anything of value, such as money, property, or a promise of monetary gain. Only the recipient of the consideration can be guilty of compounding an offense. Although the person who offers the consideration is not considered guilty of compounding a crime, he or she might be guilty of bribery.

At common law the compounding of any crime was an offense. Today many jurisdictions limit the offense to the compounding of felonies. The usual punishment is a fine, imprisonment, or both.

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