The Crime of Assisting a Criminal

An area of law that is frequently confused is the difference between the legal theory of accomplice liability and the crime of assisting a criminal.  While similar, it is important to understand that accomplice liability is a legal mechanism to hold all participants of a crime accountable.  Assisting a criminal, on the other hand, is its own crime that holds accountable those that help participants of a crime evade capture.

Accomplice Liability

The rationale behind accomplice liability is to hold individuals accountable for a crime, so long as they are an active participant in any part of that crime.  In Indiana, a person is responsible for the actions of another person when, either before or during the commission of a crime, he or she knowingly helps the other person to commit a crime.

The legislature has specifically crafted a statute to hold individuals accountable that knowingly aid or assist a criminal, even if the person assisting the criminal had no participation in the actual crime that had been committed.  Assisting a criminal, therefore, is a charge typically applied to those that help criminals after the crime was already committed.  This is the key difference between accomplice liability and assisting a criminal.

Specifically, the crime of assisting a criminal is defined as follows by I.C. 35-44.1-2-5:

“A person not standing in the relation of parent, child, or spouse to another person who has committed a crime or is a fugitive of justice who, with intent to hinder the apprehension or punishment of another person, harbors, conceals, or otherwise assists the person commits assisting a criminal.” 

Clearly, there is a broad spectrum of actions that could lead to criminal liability with respect to assisting a criminal.  Hiding a fugitive in a home, lying to the police about the fugitive’s whereabouts, and giving the fugitive funds to skip town or all ways in which the state will seek to obtain a conviction for assisting a criminal.

What is the Charge for Assisting a Criminal?

Typically, assisting a criminal is a class A misdemeanor.  However, if the person that was assisted committed a level 3, 4, 5, or 6 felony, the penalty for assisting a criminal becomes a level 6 felony.  If the person assisted committed murder, or a level 1 or 2 felony, the penalty for assisting a criminal becomes a level 5 felony.

To secure a conviction for assisting a criminal, all that is required is that person assisting the fugitive had knowledge that the fugitive had committed some crime.  It is immaterial as to whether the person assisting actually knew what crime the fugitive had actually committed, just that the person assisting knew that the fugitive was wanted by authorities.

It is important to note that even if the criminal being assisted was never apprehended or prosecuted, it is still possible for the State to bring assisting a criminal charges against those that may have knowingly helped the criminal to evade capture.  Similarly, even if the criminal being assisted was acquitted of the crime alleged to have been committed, the state can still bring assisting a criminal charges against those that helped harbor or conceal the fugitive before getting arrested.

Contact Our Team

If you or somebody you know has recently been charged with assisting a criminal, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC.  We are available at all times by calling us at (317) 870-0019, or by emailing info@banksbrower.com.