What’s The Difference Between An Accomplice And An Accessory In Florida?
Lawrence, Ryan and Sydney are goofing around on a school night. They joke about holding up the local football game athletic booster, which often brings in thousands of dollars in concessions and donations. Lawrence talks about how easy it would be since there is no police presence or campus security, and no one would know it was them. The three all decide it’s too easy not to go through with it, so they plan to rob the concession stand at the Homecoming Game. The night of the game, Sydney gets cold feet but is convinced to drive the getaway car. They make off with over 2,000 dollars in cash and head to Ryan’s girlfriend’s house about 15 miles away. Amanda had no idea what the guys were planning but feels she has no choice but to help them hide out. She offers to store Sydney’s car in their garage and helps them hide some of the money in her attic. Is Amanda an accomplice to the crime or is she an accessory? What offense carries a heftier penalty?
What is an Accessory in Florida?
Florida statute 777. 03 defines an accessory after the fact as someone who assists a criminal offender after the commission of a felony. Assisting could involve helping the offender evade the police, an arrest, avoid trial or avoid sentencing. When someone aids and abets the offender after the crime, they can be charged with a felony as well. There is one specific exception unique to Florida law. It states that a relative of the defendant’s nuclear family cannot be charged as an accessory. For example, an offender’s wife, father, mother, child or sibling cannot be charged as an accessory after the fact. However, a girlfriend, ex-wife, or cousin could be charged. Punishment for accessories after the fact is usually a step under the punishment for the offender. For example, if the suspect is charged with a second-degree felony, the accessory might be charged with a third degree felony. If the crime is deemed a capital felony, the accessory could be charged with a first-degree felony, punishable by up to thirty years in prison. Accessories don’t conspire with the offender or assist the offender during the crime but can still serve serious time if convicted.
What about Accomplices?
Florida statute interchanges the terms accomplice and principal. A principal is a person who assists another suspect in the commission of a crime. In Florida, a principal can be charged for the same crime as the main perpetrator. A good example of when a person is charged as an accomplice is if they assist the main actor during the commission of a criminal event, such as a robbery. The getaway driver can be charged as an accomplice even if they were not physically present for the robbery and never threatened any of the victims. Accomplices can be charged with the same crime as the perpetrator. Fla. Stat. §777.011 (2021). This means if a homicide was committed at the scene of a burglary or robbery, all defendants would be charged with murder or manslaughter depending on the circumstances of the death. This is another example of why crime does not pay. Even a well-planned criminal event can go horribly wrong, and all accomplices are charged equally for one defendant’s mistake.
Next Steps if Charged as an Accomplice or Accessory
If you or a loved one have been charged as an accomplice or an accessory, it is crucial you contact a seasoned criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. It is very likely that if convicted, you could spend years in prison for a crime you did not commit. William Wallshein is an experienced West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney who has helped thousands of clients in similar situations. He gives honest, prudent advice no matter what the circumstances, and can help you when it matters most. Call today to schedule a free consultation.