If you have watched enough television crime dramas you have probably heard the term “accessory” or “accessory after the fact.” It is one of those terms that is often used and little understood. Thus, most people don’t really understand being an accessory to a felony in Oklahoma is a crime.
Therefore, before you try to help a friend or family member with their legal troubles, make sure you understand what is legal and illegal in terms of helping them. Here is what you need to know about the crime of accessory to a felony and how it is handled in Muskogee.
What Is Accessory To A Felony In Oklahoma?
An accessory to a felony is legally defined as anyone who, after the commission of a felony by another, hides or helps the offender, knowing that the offender has committed a felony, with the intent to help that offender avoid or escape arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 173
The “principal” is the offender and the “accessory” is the person who knowingly helps the principal evade or escape legal prosecution for their crime. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 §§171, 172
The underlying crime must be a felony in Muskogee, Oklahoma. If the underlying crime is a misdemeanor, you cannot be convicted of being an accessory. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 174
Elements And Defenses
All crimes have legal elements that a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction. It can be helpful to understand all the elements to a crime, as many defenses arise from facts and evidence that tend to disprove these elements. Here are the elements of this crime:
- actively conceals or aids the offender
- after the commission of a felony
- with knowledge that the offender has committed the felony; and
- with the intent that the offender avoids or escape arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment.
Here are some of the more common defenses that arise out of these elements.
Duress. If you help an offender who threatens harm to you or someone else if you fail to help, that is duress and may be a defense depending on the circumstances.
Lack Of Knowledge. If the person helping the offender had no knowledge of the offender’s underlying criminal action, then helping is not a crime. You give money to an old friend who asks for it. They don’t disclose that they need money to get away after committing a crime. You helped, but it was without knowledge; thus, this was not a crime.
Lack Of Intent. The accessory must know that the offender committed the crime and render aid to the offender with the intent to help them escape arrest or punishment. Often knowledge and intent go hand in hand.
Penalties Vary For Accessory To A Felony In Oklahoma
Penalties are directly related to the felony committed by the offender and the penalty for that felony.
If the underlying felony is one that is punishable by four years or more in prison, an accessory can be sentenced up to half the maximum penalty allowed for that felony. If the felony is punishable by less than four years in prison, you could face up to a year in county jail. Okla. Stat. tit. 21 § 175
Likewise, if a fine is involved for the underlying felony, the accessory may be fined up to half the amount. And if the felony is subject to both a fine and a prison sentence, an accessory could end up paying up to half of the fine amount and serving half the longest prison time that can be imposed for that felony.
A conviction for accessory to murder is particularly harsh. For murder in the first degree, an accessory must serve between 5 and 45 years in prison. For murder in the second degree, an accessory could serve between 5 and 25 years in prison.
A Muskogee attorney can help you understand what defenses may be available to you and can help you protect your rights and freedom.
Free Consultation: Muskogee Felony Defense Attorney
If you are facing criminal charges of any kind, you need help to build a solid defense. Even small facts can make a big difference. Don’t try to go it alone. Get the help you need when it matters most.
Our experienced attorneys are here to help. We know your freedom is important and will work with you to preserve it. Our attorneys know how to build a strong defense.
Call a Muskogee felony defense attorney today at 918-884-7774 to ask questions or schedule a free, confidential consultation.