Like many of your neighbors in the Lexington area, you have friends and family members who mean the world to you. If someone you love commits a crime, you may find yourself in a rough spot. That is, your friend, colleague or relative may ask you to help cover up illegal activity. 

Many crimes do not happen in a single instant. On the contrary, there is usually a leadup before the actual crime. Then, there are often things that happen after the primary crime concludes. If you join the enterprise after the initial crime is over, you may have some legal exposure. Put simply, prosecutors may charge you with being an accessory after the fact

The elements 

If prosecutors want to secure a conviction against you for acting as an accessory after the fact, they must prove a couple of elements beyond a reasonable doubt. First, they must demonstrate that you had actual knowledge that a crime had been committed. Then, they must establish that you did something to hinder the capture, prosecution or punishment of the person who actually committed the crime. 

Possible defenses 

Good people get mixed up with criminal activity all the time. Fortunately, you have a right to defend yourself against criminal charges. Here are a few possible defenses to a charge of being an accessory after the fact: 

  •         The person you helped did not commit a crime.
  •         You had no knowledge that the person you helped had committed a crime.
  •         You did not intend to help the person who committed the crime.
  •         You acted under duress. 

Depending on the severity of the underlying crime, a conviction for being an accessory after the fact carries a potentially substantial prison sentence. As such, you must understand your legal options. By recognizing the elements and possible defenses to the crime, you can better plan for staying out of trouble.