You do not have to participate in a criminal act or be physically present at a crime scene to get charged with an offense. If you help another person commit an offense or contribute to the concealment of a crime, you can be charged with being an accessory.
You can either be an accessory before or after the fact. It all depends on when you came into the picture or were involved. For instance, if you recruit individuals to rob a bank and provide them with guns and masks, you are an accessory before the fact. However, if all you did was hide the perpetrators from the police after the robbery, you are an accessory after the fact.
The legal penalties in California
The potential punishment of being an accessory before or after a crime varies depending on the prevailing circumstances. However, a conviction of either offense could result in years behind bars.
In California, an accessory before the fact (referred to as aiding and abetting) is a serious offense since the accessory is treated similarly to the principal. In other words, there is no distinction between the person who helped in the commission of the crime and the perpetrator. Both will be charged with the underlying offense.
On the other hand, an accessory after the fact is separate from the perpetrator. As such, you can either be charged with a felony or a misdemeanor, depending on the facts of your case.
Get adequate legal representation
Notwithstanding the level of your crime, it is advisable to have experienced counsel in your defense if you are facing criminal charges. So much is at stake if you are convicted, and you cannot afford to sit back and leave everything to chance.