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“Accessory After the Fact” in D.C.

An “accessory after the fact” is someone who knows that a crime has been committed and who helps the offender try to escape arrest or punishment.  See D.C. Code § 22-1806.

Below are answers to frequently asked questions with respect to this offense: 

What are the elements of the offense?
What is the punishment for this offense?
Will I need a lawyer to represent me?

What are the elements of this offense?

In order to secure a conviction for this offense in Washington, D.C., the prosecution must prove (1) that a person other than the defendant committed an offense, (2) the defendant assisted the person who committed the offense, (3) at the time of the assistance, the defendant knew that the other person had committed the offense, and (4) when the defendant assisted that other person, the defendant intended to delay, interfere with, or prevent the arrest, trial, or punishment of that person.  D.C. criminal jury instruction § 7-100;  Jones v. United States, 716 A.2d 160, 163 (D.C. 1998).  

The crime in question must have been completed.  United States v. Barlow, 470 F.2d 1245, 1252-1253 (D.C. Cir. 1972)(“The very definition of the crime also requires that the felony not be in progress when the assistance is rendered”).  The defendant must have actual knowledge that the offense was committed.  Butler v. United States, 481 A.2d 431, 443 (D.C. 1984).

What is the maximum punishment for this offense?

Unlike a conspirator, an aider-or-abettor or an accessory before the fact, the suspect is not charged as a principal, and the maximum punishment defends on the underlying offense which the person attempted to cover up.  If, for example, the underlying offense imposed a maximum sentence of 10 years, a person who was convicted of being an accessory after the fact to this offense would be subject to no more than 5 years.  

Will I need a lawyer?

Yes.  Although every defendant in a criminal case has the right to defend him- or herself, it would be foolish to do so.  If you cannot afford a lawyer, the court will appoint one to represent you at no cost.