Posted on December 23, 2015

“Accessory After the Fact” Defenses & Punishment │ Penal Code 32 PC

In California, being an “Accessory after the Fact” is charged under Penal Code § 32. It is a wobbler offense which means you could be charged with a felony or misdemeanor. This charge requires that you assisted a perpetrator in some manner who previously committed a felony offense. It does not however, apply to those who assist perpetrators who committed a misdemeanor. If you’re being investigated or accused of committing this offense, contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer at the earliest possible juncture. This article will address some important things you should know about charges of being an accessory after the fact.

1. What is the Legal Definition of Accessory After the Fact?

PC § 32 provides, “Every person who, after a felony has committed, harbors, conceals or aids a principal in such felony, with the intent that said principal may avoid escape from arrest, trial, conviction or punishment, having knowledge that said principal has committed such felony or has been charged with such felony or convicted thereof, is an accessory to such felony.”

2. What are the Elements for this Offense?

Pursuant to CALCRIM 440, to prove you’re guilty of being an Accessory after the Fact in violation of PC § 32, the prosecution must prove the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

1. Another person committed a felony;

2. You knew that the perpetrator had committed a felony or that perpetrator had been charged with or convicted of a felony;

3. You harbored or concealed or aided the perpetrator after the felony was committed;

4. When you acted, you intended that the perpetrator avoid or escape arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment.

3. What are the Legal Defenses?

• You did not know that the perpetrator had committed a felony offense.

• You did not intend that the felony perpetrator avoid escape.

• The perpetrator did not commit a felony offense but a misdemeanor.

• Law enforcement committed an illegal search and/or seizure in violation of your Fourth Amendment right.

• Law enforcement illegally obtained your incriminating statements in violation of your Miranda rights.

• You are being falsely accused – i.e., someone is pointing the finger at you.

4. What is the Punishment for PC § 32?

The punishment for being an accessory after the fact will depend on whether you were convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. A felony conviction carries 16 months, 2, or 3 years in county jail. However, a misdemeanor conviction carries up to 1 year in the county jail. Either a felony or misdemeanor conviction carries a fine amount not exceeding $5,000.

5. What are Examples of being an Accessory After the Fact?

• Disposing of a gun after the perpetrator previously committed a robbery with the use of a firearm.

• Paying for plane tickets for a perpetrator to leave the country to avoid felony prosecution.

• Storing a vehicle in your garage after you knew it was used in the commission of a felony offense.

• Allowing a perpetrator to stay in your home when you knew they had an outstanding felony arrest warrant for the purposes of avoiding their capture.

6. Reduction to a Misdemeanor & Expungement

If you’ve been convicted of being an accessory after the fact as a felony and you were sentenced to probation, you may be eligible to reduce your felony to a misdemeanor pursuant to PC § 17(b) after successful completion of your probation period. The process requires a specific petition, proof of service, and a motion containing the law and reasons you’re seeking reduction. If the court grants your reduction motion, the charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor “for all purposes” relieving you from ever having to disclose that you’ve been convicted of a felony.

Simultaneously, you may be eligible to expunge your conviction under PC § 1203.4. If the court grants your expungement petition, you will be “released from all penalties and disabilities” resulting from your conviction. Normally people seek this remedy because it carries considerable benefits in the private employment sector.

7. Free Consultation

If you’re facing accusations of being an accessory after the fact in violation of PC § 32, contact Criminal Defense Attorney John Rogers at the Law Offices of John D. Rogers for a free confidential consultation concerning your rights and defenses.

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