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Understanding The Four Categories Of Criminal Accomplices

If you help or encourage another person to commit a crime, then the law considers you to be his or accomplice.  The act of being an accomplice is known as complicity. Complicity is a serious crime that (depending on your level of involvement) may attract the same charges and sentences as the actual perpetrator of the crime. Accomplices are categorized into four degrees depending on how involved and what part they took in the criminal act. Here are the four degrees:

Principal in the First Degree

The main perpetrators of a crime, the people who do it, are referred to as the principals. A principal in the first degree is the main person (he may have helpers) who commits the crime, either physically or by using a tool or instrument. For example, if you hatch up a plan to rob a bank, hire a few helpers such as lookouts and drivers, and actually rob the bank, then you are the principal in the first degree.

Principal in the Second Degree

Some crimes aren't committed by one person; the perpetrators may have helpers to assist them with different aspects of the crime. Some helpers may be there on the ground while the crime is committed while other may help from afar (for example, via phone). If you are one of these helpers, then you are a principal in the second degree.

An example is when you stand as a lookout while the principal in the first degree holds up a store. The classification applies whether you help with words (encouragement or advice) or physically (helping to collect valuables from robbery victims).

Accessory Before the Fact

An accessory before the fact is the helper who is not present when the main perpetrator commits the crime, but provides his or her assistance before the actual crime is committed. Examples are those who organize a robbery, help with the planning, or acquire tools for the act, but aren't present when the crime is committed.

Accessory After the Fact

You are deemed an accessory after the fact if you help the perpetrator to evade the authorities after he or she has already committed the crime. This might be the case even if you weren't involved in the original crime. For example, if a robbery suspect asks you to help smuggle him or her out of the country, then you become an accessory after the fact to his or her crimes.

The facts of the case determine the degree to which the court categorizes your criminal actions. It is important to get the classification right because it may determine the severity of your sentences. For further assistance, contact professionals, such as those from Hammer Law Office.