CRS 18-8-105 is the Colorado statute that defines accessory to a crime (also called an accessory after the fact). You can be charged as an accessory if you render assistance to a criminal in order to protect him or her from getting
- convicted, or
The language of CRS 18-8-105 states:
(1) 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.
(2) “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.
(3) Being an accessory to crime is a class 4 felony if the offender knows that the person being assisted has committed, or has been convicted of, or is charged by pending information, indictment, or complaint with a crime, and if that crime is designated by this code as a class 1 or class 2 felony.
(4) Being an accessory to crime is a class 5 felony if the offender knows that the person being assisted is suspected of or wanted for a crime, and if that crime is designated by this code as a class 1 or class 2 felony.
(5) Being an accessory to crime is a class 5 felony if the offender knows that the person being assisted has committed, or has been convicted of, or is charged by pending information, indictment, or complaint with a crime, or is suspected of or wanted for a crime, and if that crime is designated by this code as a felony other than a class 1 or class 2 felony; except that being an accessory to a class 6 felony is a class 6 felony.
(6) Being an accessory to crime is a petty offense if the offender knows that the person being assisted has committed, or has been convicted of, or is charged by pending information, indictment, or complaint with a crime, or is suspected of or wanted for a crime, and if that crime is designated by this code as a misdemeanor of any class.
In this article, our Denver 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 accessory?
- 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 law enforcement officers cannot find it
In short, any act of assisting a criminal in an effort to avoid the authorities qualifies as being an accessory. The key element is that the accomplice knows that the person committed a crime and voluntarily helps him/her escape justice.
Note that people who know about a crime and stay quiet about it – but then have no intention to help the criminal – are not guilty of being an accessory. “Mere silence” does not rise to the level of acting as an accessory: An accessory has to do something in attempt to prevent
- an arrest,
- a conviction, or
Also note that it does not matter whether the criminal is ever
- convicted, or
- sentenced for the underlying crime.
An accessory can be charged even if the criminal is never charged him/herself. (This is different from Colorado’s original common law rule, which required criminals to be convicted first before their accessories could be charged.) 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|
|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.
If any incriminating evidence was found through an illegal search and seizure, 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 beyond a reasonable doubt.
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 (which is different from expungements).
For further help…
Our Colorado criminal defense lawyers practice throughout the state, including Denver, Colorado Springs, Douglas County, and more. Call our criminal law firm for legal advice on your Colorado criminal case.
Our law office handles plea bargaining for all types of charges, such as Colorado DUI/DWAI, domestic violence, license revocations, vehicular homicide, restraining order / protection order violations, solicitation, child abuse, tampering, sexual assault and other sex offender charges, first- and second-degree assault, controlled substance charges, and more.
- CRS criminal code 18-8-105; 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. Howard v. People, (1935) 97 Colo. 550, 51 P.2d 594 (“At common law a conviction of the principal was required to precede or accompany that of one charged as an accessory and the accessory was subject to the same punishment as the principal…Thus, at common law, the accused must have rendered some assistance to a felon, and that assistance must have been such as to shelter him to some extent from prosecution, as, for instance, by concealing him in his house, and the like.”). People v. Broom, (Colo. App. 1990) 797 P.2d 754.
- Colorado Revised Statute 18-1-603.
- CRS 18-8-105 subsections 3-6. Prior to March 1, 2022, being an accessory to a misdemeanor was a class 1 petty offense, carrying up to 6 months in jail, and/or up to $500 in fines. SB21-271.
- 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.