Understanding the Difference Between an Accomplice and an Accessory

Contrary to popular belief, accomplices and accessories are not the same thing when it comes to criminal law. These two classifications of one’s involvement in a crime are actually quite different. They have differing levels of criminal culpability as well. 

The person who actually, physically commits the crime is called the principal. An accomplice is someone who is also at the scene and helps the principal commit the crime, or knowingly encourages them to commit it. An accessory also helps the principal commit the crime, but their involvement occurs before or after the crime itself, and they are not present at the crime scene. 

How severely can accomplices and accessories be punished?

Accomplices are generally considered just as criminally liable as the principal. They can be prosecuted and punished to the same extent as the person who physically carried out the crime.

Accessories who participate before the crime are similarly charged. However, accessories who participate after the crime will face less serious repercussions (although, depending on the severity of the crime, these punishments can still be quite considerable).

Can accomplices and accessories still be charged and/or convicted if the principal is not caught?

Absolutely. If the principal gets away with the crime, it will by no means prevent accomplices or accessories who have been connected to the crime from being held responsible. However, if the principal is on the loose and/or unidentified, this can sometimes give accomplices and accessories bargaining power with the authorities. With a strong attorney, it is sometimes possible to get off on a lesser charge in exchange for turning in the person who physically committed the crime.

I’ve been accused of being an accessory or accomplice to a crime. Who can help me?

If you have been charged as an accessory or accomplice to a crime or are under investigation, you need an experienced criminal defense lawyer to defend you. A criminal charge, even if you were not the person who physically committed the crime, can have a hugely negative impact on your life. It can hurt your family relationships, your career opportunities, and so much more.

At Pak & McRae Law Firm, we offer experienced, aggressive counsel to help our clients in the Greater Atlanta area protect their legal rights. You are innocent until proven guilty, so contact Pak & McRae Law today at (678) 632-5298.

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Pak & McRae Law

At Pak and McRae Law, LLC we provide straightforward, sincere criminal defense for local, state, and federal matters. Our team includes a former Assistant District Attorney, so we understand how prosecutors approach cases and will use those insights to benefit your case.

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