ACCESSORY TO MURDER CHARGES IN PHOENIX
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What is Accessory to Murder?
An accessory to murder is an offense wherein someone helps a murderer either before or after their commission of a murder. In general, accessories are not present for the crime of murder itself. Additionally, as an accessory to murder, it is likely that it will be a felony charge rather than a misdemeanor. As a result, you could face years in a state prison.
In Arizona, we often call an “accessory” the “accomplice” to the crime. Accomplices to crimes do not commit the crimes themselves. Rather, they promote or facilitate the commission of the crime. Generally, the accomplice tells someone to commit the crime, helps plan the crime, or gives someone the opportunity to commit the crime.
What Does Accessory to Murder Mean?
As an accessory to murder, you are liable for any deaths that occur. One is only guilty of the crime if they have knowledge of the crime. That is, a defendant must have acted while knowing that the person they were helping was going to commit a crime or did commit a crime. In general, being an accessory to a crime is a felony offense. If someone is an accessory after the fact, they do not face being charged with the underlying offense. However, if they are an accessory before the fact, it is possible that they face the same charges as the principal offender. This opens the door for more severe penalties and punishments.
What is an Accessory Before the Fact?
An accessory before the fact is someone who is not present at the time of the murder, but who encourages the murderer to commit the crime. Most state laws and criminal codes classify accessories as felony offenders.
In fact, accessories before the fact often face the same criminal charges as the principal offenders. As we stated before, this often brings harsher penalties and harsher sentences. Sometimes, we refer to being an accessory before the fact as the crime of aiding and abetting.
What is an Accessory to Murder After the Fact?
A person who helps another individual after that party commits a felony is an accessory. An example of this would be someone driving the getaway car for their friend, knowing they killed somebody.
Generally, the person labeled as the accessory after the fact is not charged with the same offense as the principal offender, or the alleged murderer.
What Defenses Are There to Being an Accessory to Murder?
In order for a prosecutor to properly accuse you of aiding and abetting, they must prove the following:
- You had knowledge that the principal offender committed the crime.
You helped the principal with the purpose of preventing their apprehension, trial, or punishment.
A number of defenses exist for accessories both before and after the fact:
Before the Fact Defenses
- No crime occurred, and therefore you are not an accessory.
- Before the crime occurred, you had no knowledge of the intent of the principal to commit a crime.
- Your actions were not intended to help in the preparation of or commission of a crime. This lack of intent is an effective defense to these charges.
- A threat of violence from the principal to you is a valid defense. Work with your attorney to prove that the principal threatened you or someone else with immediate bodily harm.
After the Fact Defenses
- No crime actually happened, therefore you could not have been an accessory.
- You did not know about the crime. Even if you actually performed the actions the prosecutor accused you of, you are not guilty as an accessory. Without knowledge of the crime of the principal, you are not an accessory.
- Your intent was not to help the principal in escaping arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment. Unintentionally, you may have aided the principal without knowing that they committed a crime.
- If the principal threatened to hurt you or someone else and you helped them, you lack the mental state required to be an accessory. Because the principal threatened you with immediate harm, you did something that you would not have done otherwise.
How Does Arizona Law Handle Accessory to Murder Charges?
Punishments of accomplices depend on both the crime committed and the form in which the accomplice helped. For example, you drive the getaway car for a burglar. Even though you did not physically commit the burglary, you will still be charged with burglary. This is punishable with a prison sentence between 3 and 12 years. You still arrived at the crime scene and aided in the commission of the crime.
Keep in mind, however, that Enmund v. Florida holds that accomplices may not be convicted of the death penalty. This holds true if they did not take a life, attempt to take a life, or intend to take a life, even if they are present at the murder.
Phoenix Defense Lawyer for Accessory to Murder Charges
Even if you did not commit the principal crime, prosecutors will still come at you with all they have. Facing criminal charges can be scary, but you have the right to a fair trial and protection under the law. Filled with passion for justice and fighting tirelessly on behalf of our clients, Ybarra Maldonado Law Group is here to ensure your rights are not violated. We will put together an impressive defense that will take these accusations head-on.
If you find yourself in Phoenix or neighboring areas facing legal trouble in the criminal justice system – don’t hesitate! Call us today at 602-910-4040.