Aiding or contributing in a secondary way or assisting in or contributing to as a subordinate.
Incriminal law, contributing to or aiding in the commission of a crime. One who, without being present at the commission of an offense, becomes guilty of such offense, not as a chief actor, but as a participant, as by command, advice, instigation, or concealment; either before or after the fact or commission.
One who aids, abets, commands, or counsels another in the commission of a crime.
In common law, an accessory could not be found guilty unless the actual perpetrator was convicted. In most U.S. jurisdictions today, however, an accessory can be convicted even if the principal actor is not arrested or is acquitted. The prosecution must establish that the accessory in some way instigated, furthered, or concealed the crime. Typically, punishment for a convicted accessory is not as severe as that for the perpetrator.
An accessory must knowingly promote or contribute to the crime. In other words, she or he must aid or encourage the offense deliberately, not accidentally. The accessory may withdraw from the crime by denouncing the plans, refusing to assist with the crime, contacting the police, or trying to stop the crime from occurring.
An accessory before the fact is someone behind the scenes who orders a crime or helps another person commit it. Many jurisdictions now refer to accessories before the fact as parties to the crime or even accomplices. This substitution of terms can be confusing because accessories are fundamentally different from accomplices. Strictly speaking, whereas an accomplice may be present at the crime scene, an accessory may not. Also, an accomplice generally is considered to be as guilty of the crime as the perpetrator, whereas an accessory has traditionally received a lighter punishment.
An accessory after the fact is someone who knows that a crime has occurred but nonetheless helps to conceal it. Today, this action is often termed obstructing justice or harboring a fugitive.
An infamous accessory after the fact was Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, the physician and Confederate sympathizer who set John Wilkes Booth's leg after it was broken when the assassin jumped from President Abraham Lincoln's box at Ford Theater. Despite Mudd's protestation of innocence, he was tried and convicted as an accessory after the fact in Lincoln's murder. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at Fort Jefferson in the Dry Tortugas off Key West, Florida. President andrew johnson pardoned Mudd in 1869, and the U.S. Congress gave him an official pardon in 1979.
Berg, Alan. 1996. "Accessory Liability For Breach of Trust." Modern Law Review 59 (May): 443-453.
Blakey, Robert G., and Kevin P. Roddy. 1996. "Reflections on Reves v. Ernst & Young: Its Meaning and Impact On Substantive, Accessory, Aiding Abetting and Conspiracy Liability Under RICO." American Criminal Law Review 33: 1345-1702.
Huett, Lisa. 2001. "Could You Be an Accessory? Uncertainty and Risk For Lawyers." Law Institute Journal 75 (March).
ac·ces·so·ry / akˈses(ə)rē/ • n. (pl. -ries) 1. a thing that can be added to something else in order to make it more useful, versatile, or attractive: bathroom accessories. ∎ a small article or item of clothing carried or worn to complement a garment or outfit: hair accessories such as rhinestone-studded barrettes. 2. Law someone who gives assistance to the perpetrator of a crime, without directly committing it, sometimes without being present: an accessory to murder. • adj. chiefly technical contributing to or aiding an activity or process in a minor way: functionally the maxillae are a pair of accessory jaws. PHRASES: accessory before (or after) the fact Law , dated a person who incites or assists someone to commit a crime (or knowingly aids someone who has committed a crime).
accessory, in criminal law, a person who, though not present at the commission of a crime, becomes a participator in the crime either before or after the fact of commission. An accessory before the fact is one whose counsel or instigation leads another to commit a crime. An accessory after the fact is one who, having knowledge that a crime has been committed, aids, or attempts to aid, the criminal to escape apprehension. In a misdemeanor and in treason there is no distinction between principals and accessories. In some states the common law distinction between principal and accessory before the fact has been abolished, and the accessory before the fact is prosecuted as a principal. The penalties for being an accessory are usually much less severe than those meted out to the principal. Except where statutes provide differently, an accessory cannot be tried without his consent before the conviction of the principal, unless both are tried together. If an accessory is called as a witness, the court must decide if he is also an accomplice, because the testimony of an accomplice must be corroborated. An accomplice has been defined as any person who could be prosecuted for the crime of which the defendant is accused. This would include principals and accessories before the fact; depending on the jurisdiction and the facts of the case it might also include conspirators (see under conspiracy) and accessories after the fact.