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What Does it Mean to be an Accessory to a Crime?

February 2nd, 2018 at 7:07 pm

accessory to a crime, aiding and abetting, Rolling Meadows criminal defense lawyer, criminal conviction, committing a crimeWhen a crime is committed, the person who actually carries out the illegal act is referred to as the “principal.” Any person who assists in the commission of the offense but did not actually participate in committing the crime is called an “accessory.” For example, pretend that two friends decide to rob a bank and they agree that Friend A is going to go into the bank and rob it while Friend B waits for him out front in the getaway car. If these friends carry out the bank robbery as planned, then Friend A would be principal (as he committed the actual robbery) while Friend B would be the accessory (given that he assisted in the commission of the robbery).

Generally speaking, an accessory to a crime is anyone who willingly and knowingly aids and abets the principal in committing a crime. This assistance can come either before, after, or during the commission of the crime. However, it is important to note that the precise definition of what it takes to qualify as an accessory to a crime varies a bit from state to state.

Illinois’ Main Aiding and Abetting Law

Illinois’ main aiding and abetting l law is codified under code section 720 ILCS 5/5-2 and in relevant part states that it is illegal to knowingly help or assist someone else commit a crime. Regardless of whether this unlawful assistance comes before, during, or after the commission of the crime, the aiding party can still be held liable as an accessory to the crime. Furthermore, it is important to note that an accessory to a crime does not need to have been physically present at the scene of the crime in order to be found guilty.

The Penalty for Being an Accessory to a Crime in Illinois

You may be surprised to learn that a convicted accessory in Illinois can receive the same penalty as the principal whom he or she aided. In other words, if the bank robbing friends from the example above were caught and convicted in Illinois, then Friend B, who was guilty of being an accessory to the crime, is eligible to receive the same sentence (including jail time, fines, probation, restitution, etc.) that he would have been eligible for had he been the principal in the bank robbery rather than the accessory.

Need Legal Advice?

If you have been accused of committing a crime or of being an accessory to a crime, it is critical that you consult with a talented Rolling Meadows criminal defense lawyer about mounting your defense without delay. Time is of the essence, so it is important that you find a lawyer who has experience handling cases similar to yours to advise you on your legal options. At The Law Offices of Christopher M. Cosley we represent clients in a wide variety of criminal cases throughout Illinois and would be happy to assist you.


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