At what point does helping a friend to "hide the body" become illegal?

[And no, I don’t need the answer fast… Nor do any of my friends :)]

This came up in the context of the saying “a good friend helps you move; a true friend helps you hide the body”.

So, let’s say I’m a very good friend, yet balk at personally hands-on helping to “hide the body”. At what level of involvement do I become guilty of being an accessory, and to what? Assuming I wasn’t aware of any plans to murder the person - my friend shows up at my door in a panic and claiming “it was an accident” - what can I be charged with under the following scenarios:

1 - I turn him away at the door, and:

1a - Do not pick up a phone to turn him in to the cops, but would tell all I know under questioning (which may never happen)
1b - Claim I know nothing about it even if asked by the cops, but admit he came to me if they present proof of him doing so
1c - Even when they show proof that he visited me, claim he never mentioned “the body” but just asked to borrow money/crash for the night, until maybe caught in that lie

1b and 1c are obviously perjury charges, but is 1c worse?

2 - I refuse to personally help him dispose of the body, but in some combination:

2a - Give him no material aid, but suggest a strategy for disposing of the body (which he implements)
2b - Give him personal aid, like a change of clothes, food or shelter, but nothing related to the corpse
2c - Give him significant financial aid (a couple thousand bucks in cash)
2d - Give him material aid in his cover-up (lend him a pickup truck, shovels, chainsaw, rubber piping, etc., that I have lying around)

Are any of these worse, independently or in conjunction with anything else from Category 1 or 2?

IANAL but I would think that as soon as you were aware that there was a body and you failed to notify the authorities that you are in trouble. If you know about a murder and don’t say anything I would presume you could be charged as an accessory.

It seems at first blush that in all of those scenarios, you would be considered an accessory to murder after the fact.

Your post seems to be a top to bottom list of bad to worse, with the top one (1a) might have the DA declining to press charges with the bottom ones getting you a heavy prison sentence.

I’m glad the OP didn’t need an answer FAST.


Helping to conceal a corpse isn’t something you should ever agree to. Go directly to jail, do not collect $200.

IANAL, but I’m reasonably certain in the UK the charges would be along the libes of:

1a failing to report a death

1b/1c obstructing/attempting to pervert the course of justice

  1. assisting an offender

All 3 are very serious offences.

I assume that most US jurisdictions would have simlair offences.

I hope no one here is actually thinking about helping a friend hide a body.

IANAL but there is misprision of felony which seems to be enforced to varying degrees from one jurisdiction to the next. So I guess it’s like real estate; it’s all about location.

I’m thinking about it!

I would’ve thought that jurisdictions have specific laws about reporting deaths which cover all types of death (including natural and accidental as well as those resulting from criminal acts).

Well that just shows what kind of a friend YOU are. :smiley:

On the prison tour, The trustee that gave us the tour, was sentenced for 30 years for **knowing **about a planned murder. The murderers together spent less than 3 years and were released on parole.

The second your friend tells you about it—and you don’t report it?—if found out later you’d immediately be charged with Assessory After the Fact. At the least.

That’s why he turned to a true friend.

If it was on the up-and-up he could have called Triple A.

For what it’s worth the psych nurse I see was charged with being an accessory after a fact to murder and was arrested. Her son ran down several people near the university campus killing one, one of his friends made the allegation that she helped her son sell the car knowing it had been used in the crime. (She was released on 100,000 bail, then her sons’ friend recanted and charges against her were reduced and then dropped and she even has her job back now; I was assigned to a different practioner in her absence but now I have the option of seeing her again…)

If you provide the chain saw, the tarp, the lime, and a map, you might also be charged with desecration of a dead body.

Dismemberment is considered pretty yucky.

Obligatory IANAL, but the only defense I would accept for all the number ones is you claiming that you thought your friend was joking. And it had better be a fairly believable claim, IOW the assumption is a reasonable person would have believed it and the burden to prove otherwise is on you.

As far as all the number twos, again the only defense I would accept would be along the lines of, “I was afraid that if I didn’t help him he would murder me too”. Even without your friend having actually said this, but you having just gotten this ‘vibe’ from him, I would still find this a very acceptable defense.

BUT, unless the moment you were out of his sphere of influence you literally made a beeline to the police station, if you did anything other than this, you are absolutely positively guilty of accessory after the fact and deserve to be punished for it (though certainly not as severely as your murdering friend).

Note: This all applies regardless of you being father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, husband, wife, ex-husband, ex-wife etc. of the accused. The only exceptions would be if you were a minor, and even then you better be a young minor.

[At about 1:30 AM the man who’s named for an edged weapon, and who is DEFINITELY NOT A LAWYER, strolls in and comments]

Lying when you’re questioned by the cops is a bad idea. Telling the truth while being questioned by the cops is also a bad idea. Tell the police NOTHING until you have a lawyer with you. That part of the warning where they tell you that anything you say can AND WILL be used against you? They’re serious about that ‘and will’ part.

Everything in number two sounds bad. Unless you and your friend are professional killers (Which aren’t really a thing) you’d probably be proper fucked.

Aw, but it’s so useful! Just two Phyrexian black and one colorless for -5/-5 untill end of turn, how could I not put it in my sideboard? Come on, I con’t be the only one who’s been at FNM all night.

Anyone want to offer a cite for the definitiveness that not making a beeline to the police is going to get you in trouble? I’m sure it’s the case in some jurisdictions, but the broad-brush is fairly broad and unsubstantiated.

FWIW, you’re probably in the clear as far as the Feds are concerned (probably because there’s always nuance and I’m not Shepardizing a 1977 case). Anyway, take a look at US v. Johnson:

This doesn’t quite speak to the OP’s question of when you do cross the line into “concealment,” but it’s not as clear-cut as some of the above posts make it sound.
ETA: I quoted HA because it was a conveniently well-written statement of the certainty of misprison, not to call him/her out on it in particular. That he was talking about bolstering the “but I was under fear” is one of those nuance things.

Does anyone have cites for any of these claims that you will “definitely” be considered an accessory to murder in all of these scenarios, including the first one? That doesn’t sound right to me. It strikes me as strange that you would be considered guilty of being an accessory to crime purely because, when someone says to you, “I have committed a crime, can you help me?”, you reply “No”, but fail to tell the police afterwards. There’s no legal requirement to report every crime you hear about to the police, that I’m aware of anyway. Why should there be? Why should it be any different for murder than for any other crime?

Once you start talking about lying to the police or actively assisting in the cover-up then sure, those things are illegal, but everyone in this thread seems to have assumed an absolute legal requirement of reporting every potentially illegal act you see to the police, under penalty of being rendered a criminal yourself, which I’m not aware of.

What about if you and your friend discover some fraud at your workplace, and expose it. Then your supervisor invites you over to his house, but he’s going to kill you but someone kills him first. And then you have to pretend the boss is still alive… :smiley: