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Colorado Criminal Law – What Does It Mean To Be An Accessory to A Crime in Colorado? CRS § 18-8-105

Who can be held responsible for a crime under Colorado Law?

To establish that an accused is guilty of being an accessory under Colorado Law the following statutory elements must be proven:

(1) A crime has been committed;

(2) the accused rendered assistance to the actor;

(3) the accused intended to hinder, delay, or prevent the discovery, detection, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of the principal;

(4) the accused knew that the person being assisted has committed, or has been convicted of, or is charged by pending information, indictment, or complaint with such crime, or is suspected of or wanted in connection with such crime; and,

(5) the underlying crime is designated as a felony other than a class 1 or 2 felony.

The Rule of Mere Silence

Mere silence is not enough. Mere silence as to one’s knowledge of a felony, with no intent to aid the felon, or mere failure to inform the public authorities, does not establish such person as an accessory.

There are two categories of people in a crime – principals and accessories.

Accessory Law – The Principals:

In general, principals are those that do the crime or those that do the crime or those that “aid and abet” in the commission. To aid and abet is to somehow facilitate, encourage or assist in the commission of the crime. Principals can all be charged with the same crime and punished the same, although obviously the direct participant is usually dealt with more severely than a person that aids and abets. For a person to aid and abet, they must have knowledge of what the other person intends to do. For example, if your friend came to you and said, “Can I borrow your car? I need it to do a drive by shooting.” or “I’m going to rob a liquor store and need a driver.” If you agree, even if you never directly participate in the crime itself, you could be responsible under the aiding and abetting theory.

Accessory Law – The Actual Accessory

Then there are the second category of participants – accessories. It’s sometimes referred to as “accessory after the fact,” but you can only be an accessory after the fact. An accessory (being an accessory is its own separate crime under Colorado Law ) is someone who, with knowledge that a felony has been committed, does something to help a principal escape capture, prosecution, punishment or hides evidence, etc.

For both aiding and abetting as well as the crime of being an accessory, you must have knowledge of the illegal act the other person either plans or did.

For example, if you drove your friend to rob a bank, waited outside and drove them away afterward, you’re a principal under the aiding and abetting theory. If your friend came running to your house and told you they just robbed a bank and asked you to hide a bag of money (and you do it), you’re an accessory.

What’s the difference?

The biggest difference is in how principals can be charged and punished. A principal, whether they directly commit the crime or they aid and abet, can be punished in exactly the same way. In the bank robbery example, both the person who went in and did the robbery as well as the get-away driver could be charged with robbery and if convicted, could be punished exactly the same.

The Defenses to the Crime of Accessory:

Under either theory – being charged as a principal under the aiding and abetting theory or being charged as an accessory, the key is knowledge. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that as an aider and abettor, you knew what was going to happen. For an accessory, they must prove you knew that a felony was committed and that you actively did something with the intent that a principal to the crime escape. That proof of knowledge is often weak in many cases, giving you defenses to the charges.

The best source of understanding the crime with which you are charged – is to look at the law itself. What follows is the Colorado Crime of Accessory.

The Original Common-law rule. At common law the accused must have rendered some assistance to a felon, and that assistance must have been such as to shelter him to some extent from prosecution, such as concealing him in his house. Here is the specific criminal law.

§ 18-8-105. Accessory to crime

(1) A person is an accessory to crime if, with intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the discovery, detection, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of another for the commission of a crime, he renders assistance to such person.

(2) To “Render assistance” means to:

( a ) Harbor or conceal the other; or

( a.5 ) Harbor or conceal the victim or a witness to the crime; or

( b ) Warn such person of impending discovery or apprehension; except that this does not apply to a warning given in an effort to bring such person into compliance with the law; or

( c ) Provide such person with money, transportation, weapon, disguise, or other thing to be used in avoiding discovery or apprehension; or

( d ) By force, intimidation, or deception, obstruct anyone in the performance of any act which might aid in the discovery, detection, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of such person; or

( e ) Conceal, destroy, or alter any physical or testimonial evidence that might aid in the discovery, detection, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of such person.

(3) Being an accessory to crime is a class 4 felony if the offender knows that the person being assisted has committed, or has been convicted of, or is charged by pending information, indictment, or complaint with a crime, and if that crime is designated by this code as a class 1 or class 2 felony.

(4) Being an accessory to crime is a class 5 felony if the offender knows that the person being assisted is suspected of or wanted for a crime, and if that crime is designated by this code as a class 1 or class 2 felony.

(5) Being an accessory to crime is a class 5 felony if the offender knows that the person being assisted has committed, or has been convicted of, or is charged by pending information, indictment, or complaint with a crime, or is suspected of or wanted for a crime, and if that crime is designated by this code as a felony other than a class 1 or class 2 felony; except that being an accessory to a class 6 felony is a class 6 felony.

(6) Being an accessory to crime is a class 1 petty offense if the offender knows that the person being assisted has committed, or has been convicted of, or is charged by pending information, indictment, or complaint with a crime, or is suspected of or wanted for a crime, and if that crime is designated by this code as a misdemeanor of any class.


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___________________________
H. Michael Steinberg Esq.
Attorney and Counselor at Law
The Colorado Criminal Defense Law Firm of H. Michael Steinberg
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Colorado Criminal Law For Over 30 Years.
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