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.”
See also Accessory After the Fact
[ Glossary ]