Aiding and Abetting a Criminal Act

Palm Beach Gardens Defense Attorney

In Florida, when a crime is committed and it involves multiple people, not all roles are created equally. In Florida’s statute, it defines a principal as any person who commits criminal offense, regardless of whether it is a felony or misdemeanor, and/or helps another to commit the crime by aiding, abetting, counseling, hiring, or otherwise engaging in the offense. This provides that to be a principal in the crime, the criminal defendant can either be the mastermind of the crime, the driver of the getaway car, or someone in between and be found to be a principal in the act. Florida law states that as long as the person was involved in the commission of the crime, it does not matter if he or she is actually or constructively present at the scene of the crime. If you or a loved one has been arrested for involvement in a criminal offense, you should immediately contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.

Accessory Before/After the Fact

To be an a ccessory before/after the fact , Florida law makes a distinction as to this role.

According to the statute, to be an accessory after the fact, he or she must have aided the principal to avoid or escape:

  • Police detection
  • Arrest
  • Trial or
  • Punishment.
Punishment for An Accessory After the Fact

The punishment that is available to the accessory is generally a lighter sentence than what is given to the principal. The following is the sentence structure for the accessory as it relates to the principal’s crime.

  • Where the principal commits a capital felony, the accessory may receive a felony in the first degree.

  • Where the principal commits a felony in the first degree or a life felony, the accessory will receive a felony in the second degree.

  • Where the principal commits a felony of the second or third degree, the accessory will receive a felony in the third degree, unless the principal’s third degree was ranked in level 1 or level 2 where the accessory will receive a misdemeanor of the first degree.

The Family Bond Exception

Though the accessory before/after the fact’s role is limited to aiding the principal in escaping detection, arrest, trial, and/or punishment, Florida has limited exceptions for family members who act as accessories to the principal. Under Florida law, a person who is the spouse, parent, grandparent, child, grandchild, brother or sister, or is otherwise related by blood or marriage to the principal will not be charged for his/her role as accessory. There is one exception to this familial rule: if the principal was engaging in child abuse or murdered a child that was under the age of 18, a family member cannot hide behind this exemption, unless he/she was a victim of domestic violence. It is important to note that there is no familial exception in federal criminal law.

Public Policy as a Reasoning Behind the Family Bond Exception

The main purpose behind this statute is a public policy one. It would be unrealistic to expect men and women to turn in their family members for criminal acts. Many legislators believe that regardless of the obligation that we feel to the state, the bond of family will always override our obligation to society. Finally, Florida is interested in maintaining familial bonds without external pressure from the state, in view that family has our most fundamental allegiance.

If you have been arrested for your involvement in criminal activity, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a confidential consultation.