This is the latest entry in BeenVerified’s legal term library designed to help you better understand public record information, criminal records and related terminology. The information in this article is provided for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice.
Being charged as an accomplice can cover a wide variety of support roles and crimes. From helping to plan out a crime in detail to concealing a small piece of evidence, a conviction for being an accomplice can be as consequential as the person convicted for the crime itself. Read on to find out the exact details and how being an accomplice impacts a person’s public record.
According to Cornell Law, an accomplice is a “person who knowingly, voluntarily, or intentionally gives assistance to another in (or in some cases fails to prevent another from) the commission of a crime. An accomplice is criminally liable (often charged with “complicity” or “aiding and abetteing”) to the same extent as the principal.” This means that supporting a criminal can mean that the accomplice is in just as much trouble as the person who directly carries out the crime. Importantly, a crime does not have to be accomplished in order for an accomplice to be charged in the planning of a crime, according to LegalMatch.
For less direct involvement in a crime one may face being charged as an accessory. Accomplice and accessory are typically distinguished by the degree of involvement in the crime, with accomplices usually being proved to be present during the crime itself, while an accessory role is usually for less direct involvement, according to LegalMatch.
Another common charge is “Accessory after the fact,” wherein a person helps to conceal a felon after her or she commits a crime. According to NOLO.com, while this is still a significant crime, it does not tend to garner the same level of punishment as an accomplice would face.
Another important legal distinction is between accomplice and conspirator. NOLO.com notes that an accomplice is viewed as a “helper” whereas equal partners who plan to commit a crime can be both charged as conspirators.
Being an accomplice or accessory to a felony crime can have very serious ramifications, as a felony conviction will remain on a person’s public record and can lead to the loss of rights such as to vote or carry a firearm.
Notable accomplices and accessories include Azamat Tazhayakov (friend of one of the Boston bombers), Joyce Mitchell, the prison worker who helped convicts escape and remain at large in New York state and the four people who helped OJ Simpson commit a 2008 robbery that he is still serving time for.