A person can be an accessory to a crime if he instigates, encourages or assists another to commit a crime.
One can also be an accessory to a crime if he aids or abets the commission of the crime. Another way of becoming an accessory is when a person counsels and procures the commission of a crime. All these acts must be coupled with a criminal intent shared with the principal. The principal is the person who actually commits the physical acts which are the elements of the crime.
For instance, Hank, a security officer at a bank, was going to be terminated from his job because the bank was experiencing financial losses. Hank’s friends convince him that the bank should be made to pay for their unfair treatment of him. His friends, Bill and Tim decide to rob the bank. Hank provided them the schedule of the delivery of cash to and from the bank. Hank disabled the alarm at the time that Bill and Tim come to the bank to commit the robbery. In the above example, Hank is an accessory. He assisted Bill and Tim in committing a bank robbery.
A married man, Bob, takes out a hefty life insurance on his wife. He then asks Dick and Harry to kill his wife. In payment for their services, he agrees to split with them the proceeds of the insurance. Bob is an accessory to the murder of his wife. He procures the services of Dick and Harry to commit the actual killing of his wife. Bob may not have actually killed his wife but he procured the services of others to kill her. Bob is considered by law to have been in a criminal partnership and he is liable for the killing of his wife as though he had actually killed her himself.
An accessory is a person who may or may not have been present in person at the time and place where the physical acts of the crime were committed. It is enough for an accessory to have shared a criminal intent with those persons who actually committed the acts and either procured or instigates its commission or else abetted it.
Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.