Understanding the Difference Between an Accomplice and an Accessory

When a crime has been committed there are often quite a few people who are involved in some way. While the main suspect is typically the one who gets most of the attention, those who assist in any way can also be charged with either being an accomplice or an accessory to the crime. While similar in many ways, these two legal terms are distinct, so it is important to understand what they each mean if you or a loved one have been accused.

What Is an Accessory?

When it comes to legal definitions, an accessory is any person who knowingly and voluntarily assists in the commission of a crime. This can be done either before or after the actual event. For example, if you helped another party plan how to rob a store, you could be charged as an accessory to the crime. Additionally, if you helped that same person hide the money that they stole, you could also be charged with this crime.

What Is an Accomplice?

An accomplice is also someone who knowingly and voluntarily assists in a crime. The accomplice will typically have a more active role in the planning or actions involved with the crime, and in many ways would be seen as a partner in the event, even if they aren’t actually there when the crime was committed. An example of this would be if a bank employee gave a criminal the security codes to disable the alarm system.

What’s the Real Difference?

These two legal terms are quite similar in many ways, and in fact, one could be both an accessory and an accomplice. The following are generally examples of how the two will differ:

  • An accessory is almost never present at the scene of the crime, but an accomplice may or may not be there.
  • An accessory will typically be helping the principal offender before and/or after the crime, but not during. An accomplice usually assists both before and during the crime in some way.
  • Charges of being an accessory are usually less severe than those of an accomplice.
  • While not always the case, an accessory may be seen to be acting reluctantly. For example, the mother of the principal offender may hide the stolen goods to try to protect her son. An accomplice, on the other hand, is just as committed to the crime as the principal offender. 

Taking Both Charges Seriously

If you or a loved one has been charged or is suspected of being an accessory or an accomplice, you need to take this situation very seriously. Both of these charges can come with serious jail time, fines, and other penalties. Having an experienced criminal attorney at your side is the best way to handle any legal charge like this. Please contact Abdallah Law to schedule a consultation and get the help you need.

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Abdallah Law

Abdallah Law has been a successful law firm serving the people of Chicago and the surrounding area for years. This success can be attributed to one thing: Our team. At Abdallah Law, protecting our clients’ rights and safeguarding their liberties is the driving force of everything we do.

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