accessory before the fact | Definition

An accessory before the fact is a  person who aids, abets, or encourages another person to commit a crime, but who is not present at the scene when the crime takes place.

Many jurisdictions consider a person who is an accessory before the fact to be an accomplice.

At common law,

“in felony cases, parties to a crime were divided into four distinct categories: (1) principals in the first degree who actually perpetrated the offense; (2) principals in the second degree who were actually or constructively present at the scene of the crime and aided or abetted its commission; (3) accessories before the fact who aided or abetted the crime, but were not present at its commission; and (4) accessories after the fact who rendered assistance after the crime was complete.”

~STANDEFER v. UNITED STATES, 447 U.S. 10 (1980)

See also Accessory After the Fact

Learn More

On this site:  Criminal Law » Section 2.1 » Accessories

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