An accessory after the fact in Maryland is someone who helps an offender to commit or cover up a crime. An accessory after the fact could be someone who hides a murder suspect or acts as a decoy for police. He could be the getaway driver who helps bank robbers to escape from the crime scene.
Accessories help criminals. They may be part of the wider crime but are not directly involved at the crime scene. Maryland recognizes a wide degree of accomplice crimes ranging from turning off a security system to allow burglars access, to providing financial assistance for a crime or lending tools knowing they will be used for a break-in. People who are accessories after the fact to serious crimes commit a felony in Maryland and can face long prison sentences. The law does not recognize accessories in misdemeanors where all parties are charged as principals.
Baltimore lawyer for accomplices charges Randolph Rice defines “accessory after the fact” and the discusses the penalties for this charge in Maryland.
The Definition of “Accessory after the Fact” in Maryland
In Maryland, parties to a crime are all considered to be accomplices. The law identifies accessories before the fact, principals, and accessories after the fact. The crime must be a felony in order for a suspect to be a party as opposed to a misdemeanor. The principal is the party who carried out the crime.
Being an accessory is also known as aiding and abetting. Although Maryland lacks a specific aiding and abetting statute, you can be charged as an accessory for helping a criminal plan an offense, providing assistance at the scene, harboring a fugitive, deliberately giving misleading information to police, or disposing of evidence.
Does Covering up Evidence in Maryland Make you an Accessory to a Crime?
Covering up and disposing of evidence in Maryland will lead to an accessory charge. In a high profile case, Valeria Smith pleaded guilty in 2019 to being an accessory to the fact in the stabbing death of her stepmother Jacquelyn Smith.
Police initially said Smith was stabbed to death in Baltimore in 2018 when she acted as a Good Samaritan in helping out a woman in need. They said a man approached the car and stabbed her as she handed over the money.
The information came from Keith Smith, her husband, and Valeria Smith. Police said the evidence contained holes. Smith and Valeria were later charged with murder and a host of other offenses.
The charge against Valeria Smith was later reduced to accessory after the fact. She admitted to helping her father dispose of the knife and other property related to the killing as well as joining in the cover-up story about the panhandlers.
What is the Sentence for “Accessory after the Fact” in Maryland?
Under Maryland Criminal Law Code § 1-301, an accessory after the fact commits a felony carrying a term of imprisonment of up to five years. The sentence should not exceed that of the underlying offense.
An accessory to murder in the first or second degree in Maryland may face a prison term of up to 10 years.
This means someone who played a fairly marginal role in a killing such as disposing of evidence, providing transportation or being evasive to police over the whereabouts of a murder suspect can receive a heavy sentence. These cases are not always straightforward. For instance, the driver of a getaway car may believe he will be transporting a person from a robbery scene when it turns into a killing. Some states have harsh laws on their books that treat accessories like principals. In Texas, a getaway driver faces the death penalty for transporting a man he thought was robbing a convenience store from a murder scene.
Accessory After the Fact vs. Accessory Before the Fact in Maryland
An accessory before the fact aids, abets or encourages an offender to commit a crime before it takes place. He or she may be referred to as an accomplice and receive the same sentence as a principal despite not being at the crime scene.
There are gray areas. If a getaway driver is closely involved in the planning of a crime he may become an accessory before the fact.
Does the Failure to Report a Crime Make you an Accessory After the Fact?
Witnessing a crime and doing nothing does not make you an accessory after the fact unless you were part of the crime and took active steps to conceal evidence or impede the investigation. The justices in the 1955 case of Watson v. State pointed out a witness who sees someone drowning a baby in water and fails to take action or notify the police is not an accomplice to the crime or murder.
Call Baltimore Criminal Defense Lawyer About Accessory Charges in Maryland
Accessory after the crime offenses are seldom cut and dry. If a robber kills a store clerk, police can usually easily prove his culpability. However, a prosecutor must prove an accomplice had knowledge of the offense, and encouraged, helped, gave advice, helped clean up a scene, destroyed evidence or misled police. The defendant must have been fully aware he was assisting or covering up a crime. The mere fact you give misleading information to police may not mean you were an accessory. A wife who tells the police her husband left for work on the night he committed rape, may have genuinely believed he was going to work.
At the Law Offices of Randolph Rice, our Baltimore criminal defense attorney will conduct an in-depth investigation into an alleged crime and rigorously test the claims of police and prosecutors that you were an accessory after the fact in Maryland. Randolph Rice has helped defendants including those charged with accomplice crimes in Maryland for over a decades. Please contact us as soon as possible after an accessory charge for a free consultation.