"Accessory After the Fact" - clarification

If a person is wanted for a crime, say murder (and you are aware that he is wanted in connection with a crime) asks you to hide him, and you do so willfully without having been coerced or threatened, you are guilty of being an accessory. (I assume I’m right about this but stand to be corrected)

But what happens if you refuse to hide him but then notice that your next door neighbour did let him in. Must you report his location, his presumed hiding place, to the authorities? If you don’t, are you an accessory?


An accessory to the crime assists in the commission of a crime. So by knowningly hiding him you are aiding him in the commission of the crime. Part of the crime not only means the actual crime but not getting caught. Since “not getting caught” is part of the commission of any crime and you are aiding him.

You also have a duty to report crime. You could be charged with harboring or aiding and abetting.

The cops will generally charge someone with as much as possible. It’s the old “throw the book at him and see what sticks.” This is useful because you can plea bargain things away and get the person to help.

Cops don’t care if your Granny hides you after you rob a bank, they don’t want her in jail they want you. But they WILL USE your Granny as a tool to get to you. By putting Granny in jail it may induce you to surrender yourself.

One thing I learned by working in a bail bond office was how fast people rat each other out. I thought it’d be like on TV, you know the “We don’t like squealers.” Not there, those people snitched on each other left and right. :slight_smile:

You do? I was under the impression that, apart from a few statutory exceptions, that there is no general duty to report any crime. The is for Canada but I assumed most other countries with legal systems decended from common-law would be similar.

From the United States Code:

Illinois’s definition is rather clear. Paraphrased, it’s a person who 1. is fully aware that a crime has been committed and either 2. hides the fact from the magistrate, or 3. harbors, hides, or conceals the person who committed the crime.

Wikipedia gives a similar definition, and notes that the tendency in statutory law and jurisprudence is to phase out the distinction between accessiories before and after the fact, simply charging as an accessory, or the similar charge of criminal facilitation.

In the UK you can be charged with “perverting the course of justice” if (for instance) you conceal or dispose of a weapon that you know has been used in a murder. That could equally be classed as being “an accessory after the fact”.

OK, but the bottom line question is - if you know where a criminal is hiding (but not in your place, or with your assistance, etc.), must you report such information?

Again, must you report a criminal’s whereabouts (assuming you’re not helping hide him, etc.)?

In Canada (and the USA?) it’s “obstruction of justice”. If you destroy evidence or lie to mislead the police during an investigation.

You are not required to tell the police anything (read threads here ad nauseum) but when asked, if you lie so that it misleads police, you are liable to be charged. This is why the advice is always “say nothing”. You cannot be charged for failing to tell the police. You can be charged if the information misleads. It’s up to you to convince the judge afterwards it was not intentional misleading…

You can also be charged for hiding or destroying evidence. Martha Stewart, for example, deleted the log of her broker’s phone call. Then she realized later it was a bad idea and retyped the entry into her log. They convicted her, IIRC, of obstruction for that original deletion; but could not convict her or the broker of insider trading without proof of what was said.

it used to be obstruction was for the misguided friends who helped the accused, but now it’s included in the “throw it all at the perp and bargain down” category.