CRS 18-8-105 is the Colorado law prohibiting being an accessory to a crime (also called an accessory after the fact). Accessories help criminals from being caught, arrested, convicted, or sentenced. Acting as an accessory to a felon is prosecuted as a felony charge. And acting as an accessory to someone who committed a misdemeanor is prosecuted as a class 1 petty offense.
CRS 18-8-105 states:
A person is an accessory to crime if, with intent to hinder, delay, or prevent the discovery, detection, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of another for the commission of a crime, he renders assistance to such person.
In this article, our Colorado criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is an accessory to a crime under CRS 18-8-105?
- 2. How is an accessory different from an accomplice?
- 3. What are the Colorado penalties for being an accomplice?
- 4. What are the defenses?
- 5. Can immigrants be deported for being an accessory?
- 6. When can my record be sealed?
1. What is an accessory to a crime under CRS 18-8-105?
An accessory in Colorado is someone who knowingly helps a criminal to escape justice. 1 Examples of being an accessory to a crime include:
- Harboring (hiding) a hit and run suspect and any witnesses in the accessory’s home;
- Warning an escaped prisoner that police officers are nearby so that the escapee can try to run away;
- Giving a fugitive cash, a wig, a gun, and a plane ticket to help him/her avoid arrest;
- Providing false information to law enforcement about a robber’s whereabouts to throw them off the scent; or
- Hiding a first degree murder suspect’s handgun in the accessory’s safe so the police cannot find it
It does not matter whether the criminal is ever caught, charged, convicted, or sentenced. Any act of assisting a criminal in an effort to avoid the authorities qualifies as being an accessory. An accessory can be charged even if the criminal is never charged him/herself. 2
2. How is an accessory different from an accomplice?
An accomplice is someone who abets another person (“the principal”) to commit a criminal offense. This is also called aiding and abetting in the commission of the crime. In contrast, an accessory is someone who helps the alleged criminal after the crime has already been committed. Hence the expression, accessory after the fact.
Note that prosecutors press the same charges against accomplices and principals. In contrast, accessories usually receive lesser charges than the criminals they allegedly helped.3
3. What are the Colorado penalties for being an accessory?
The punishment for acting as an accessory depends on what offense the alleged criminal committed. The more serious the underlying offense, the more serious the penalties for being an accessory to it.
|Crime the defendant is accused of being an accessory to||Colorado sentence for being an accessory|
|Misdemeanor||Class 1 petty offense: |
|Class 6 felony||Class 6 felony: |
1 year of mandatory parole
|Class 5 felony, or |
Class 4 felony,
|Class 5 felony: |
2 years of mandatory parole
|Class 2 felony, or||Class 5 felony, if the other person is merely suspected of or wanted for committing the class 1 or 2 felony: |
Class 4 felony, if the other person has committed, been convicted or, or is charged with the class 1 or 2 felony:
4. What are the defenses?
Three common defenses to criminal charges of being an accessory to a crime in Colorado include:
- The defendant did not render assistance to the other person; 5
- The defendant did not know the other person was suspected of, charged with, or convicted of a criminal act; or
- The defendant did not intend to hinder, delay, or prevent the discovery, detection, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of the other person.
Note that if any incriminating evidence was uncovered as the result of an illegal search and seizure or other police misconduct, the defendant can ask the court to suppress that illegally-obtained evidence. If the court agrees, then the district attorney may have to dismiss the case for lack of proof.
5. Can immigrants be deported for being an accessory?
Acting as an accessory in certain cases may qualify as a crime involving moral turpitude, which is deportable. 6 Consequently, non-citizens accused of being an accessory are encouraged to seek legal counsel to fight the charge. It may be possible to get the charge reduced or dismissed. Learn about the criminal defense of immigrants in Colorado.
6. When can my record be sealed?
Felony accessory convictions may be sealed three years after the case ends. Petty offense accessory convictions can be sealed one year after the case ends. And if the charge gets dismissed – meaning that there was no conviction – then there is no waiting period before the defendant can petition for a record seal. 7 Learn how to seal Colorado criminal records.
Our criminal defense lawyers create attorney-client relationships throughout Colorado, including Denver, Greeley, Colorado Springs, Weld County, Douglas County, and more.
Our lawyers handle all types of charges, such as DUI, domestic violence, license revocations, vehicular homicide, juvenile delinquencies, indecent exposure, restraining order / protection order violations, solicitation, controlled substance charges, and more. And we appear in state and United States district courts throughout Colorado.
- CRS criminal code 18-8-105 (“Render assistance means to: (a) Harbor or conceal the other; or (a.5) Harbor or conceal the victim or a witness to the crime; or (b) Warn such person of impending discovery or apprehension; except that this does not apply to a warning given in an effort to bring such person into compliance with the law; or (c) Provide such person with money, transportation, weapon, disguise, or other thing to be used in avoiding discovery or apprehension; or (d) By force, intimidation, or deception, obstruct anyone in the performance of any act which might aid in the discovery, detection, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of such person; or (e) Conceal, destroy, or alter any physical or testimonial evidence that might aid in the discovery, detection, apprehension, prosecution, conviction, or punishment of such person.”); see also People v. Preciado-Flores, (Colo. App. 2002) 66 P.3d 155.
- See Roberts v. People, (1938) 103 Colo. 250, 87 P.2d 251.
- CRS 18-1-603.
- CRS 18-8-105 subsections 3-6 .
- See, e.g., Lowe v. People, (Colo. Supreme Court, 1957) 135 Colo. 209, 309 P.2d 601.
- 8 USC 1227; see, e.g., Matter of Rivens, (BIA, 2011) 25 I&N Dec. 623.
- CRS 24-72-701-708.