accessory (ak-ses-<<schwa>>-ree), n.1. Something of secondary or subordinate importance.
2.Criminal law. A person who aids or contributes in the commission or concealment of a crime. •
An accessory is usu. liable only if the crime is a felony. Cf. PRINCIPAL(2). [Cases: Criminal Law
68–77; Homicide 573. C.J.S. Criminal Law §§ 137–142.] — accessory,adj. — accessoryship,n.
“In most jurisdictions, the common-law distinctions between principals and accessories have
largely been ab-olished, although the pertinent statutes vary in form and substance. Conceptually,
the common-law pattern remains the same: The person who aids, abets, commands, counsels, or
otherwise encourages another to commit a crime is still regarded as a party to the underlying crime
as at common law, even though the labels principal in the first degree, principal in the second
degree, and accessory before the fact are no longer used, and even though it usually does not
matter whether the aider and abettor is or is not present at the scene of the crime.” 1 Charles E.
Torcia, Wharton’s Criminal Law § 35, at 202–03 (15th ed. 1993).
accessory after the fact.An accessory who was not at the scene of the crime but knows that a
crime has been committed and who helps the offender try to escape arrest or punishment. 18
USCA § 3. • Most penal statutes establish the following four requirements: (1) someone else must A
have committed a felony, and it must have been completed before the accessory’s act; (2) the
accessory must not be guilty as a principal; (3) the accessory must personally help the principal try
to avoid the consequences of the felony; and (4) the accessory’s assistance must be rendered with
guilty knowledge. An accessory after the fact may be prosecuted for obstructing justice. —
Sometimes shortened to accessory after. [Cases: Criminal Law 74, 82. C.J.S. Criminal Law §§
“At common law, an accessory after the fact is one who, knowing that a felony has been
committed by another, receives, relieves, comforts, or assists the felon, or in any manner aids him
to escape arrest or punishment. To be guilty as an accessory after the fact one must have known
that a completed felony was committed, and that the person aided was the guilty party. The mere
presence of the defendant at the scene of the crime will not preclude a conviction as an accessory
after the fact, where the evidence shows the defendant became involved in the crime after its
commission.” 21 Am. Jur. 2d Criminal Law § 209, at 275–76 (1998).
accessory at the fact.See principal in the second degree under PRINCIPAL (2).
“A principal in the second degree is one by whom the actual perpetrator of the felony is aided
and abetted at the very time when it is committed; for instance, a car-owner sitting beside the
chauffeur who kills someone by over-fast driving, or a passenger on a clandestine joy-riding
expedition which results in manslaughter; or a bi-gamist’s second ‘wife,’ if she knows he is
committing bigamy. (In early law he was not ranked as a principal at all, but only as a third kind of
accessory — the accessory at the fact.)” J.W. Cecil Turner, Kenny’s Outlines of Criminal Law 86
(16th ed. 1952).
accessory before the fact.An accessory who assists or encourages another to commit a crime
but who is not present when the offense is actually committed. • Most jurisdictions have abolished
this category of accessory and instead treat such an offender as an accomplice. — Sometimes
shortened to accessory before. See ACCOMPLICE. [Cases: Criminal Law 68, 81. C.J.S.
Criminal Law §§ 137, 146–147.]
“An accessory before the fact is a person who procures or advises one or more of the
principals to commit the felony. This definition requires from him an instigation so active that a
person who is merely shown to have acted as the stake-holder for a prize-fight, which ended
fatally, would not be punishable as an accessory. The fact that a crime has been committed in a
manner different from the mode which the accessory had advised will not excuse him from
liability for it. Accordingly if A hires B to poison C, but B instead kills C by shooting him, A is
none the less liable as accessory before the fact to C’s murder. But a man who has counselled a
crime does not become liable as accessory if, instead of any form of the crime suggested, an
entirely different offence is committed.” J.W. Cecil Turner, Kenny’s Outlines of Criminal Law 88
(16th ed. 1952). [Blacks Law 8th]