Difference Between Accessory and Accomplice

Key Difference – Accessory vs Accomplice
 

Accessory and accomplice are two legal terms which refer to the people who have assisted in a crime. The main difference between accessory and accomplice is that the accessory is a person who assists in a crime knowingly and voluntarily. An accessory can be an accomplice or an abettor. An accomplice is a person who helps the principal before or during the crime whereas an abettor is a person who helps the criminal after the crime. This is the key difference between accessory and accomplice.

Who is an Accessory?

A person who is guilty in the crime of another by knowingly and voluntarily assisting the criminal before or after the crime. Thus, an accessory can be an accomplice or an abettor. Accessory is defined as,

“One who, without being present at the commission of an offense, becomes guilty of such offense, not as a chief actor, but as a participant, as by command, advice, instigation, or concealment; either before or after the fact or commission.” – West’s Encyclopedia of American Law

By this definition, a person who helps the crime by driving a getaway car, helping in the planning, providing weapons, providing an alibi to the offenders, or hiding the offender can be defined as an accessory. An accessory is not usually present at the scene of the crime, but he is aware that a crime has been committed or is going to be committed.

Key Difference - Accessory vs Accomplice

Who is an Accomplice?

An accomplice is a person who assists in a crime knowingly and voluntarily. This term can be defined as,

“One who knowingly, voluntarily, or intentionally, and with common intent and criminal purpose shared with the principal offender, solicits or encourages another to commit a crime or assists or attempts to assist in its planning and execution.” – Webster’s New World Law Dictionary

As seen from these definitions helping to plan and execute a crime, encouraging the execution of crime, as well as knowing about the crime beforehand may make a person an accomplice in a crime. An accomplice does not have to be present at the scene of the crime, but he is still guilty of the crime. For example, an employee of the bank may give the plan of the bank and the vault to a gang of robbers. Although this employee may not be present at the scene of the crime, he is an accomplice since he is also guilty of the crime. An accomplice may also be present at the scene of the crime, but his role in the crime may be minor. For example, one person secure the victim with ropes whereas the other stabs with him a knife. Here, the person who stabbed the victim may be the principal and the one who tied up the victim may be charged as the accomplice. Despite their presence or absence, they are considered to be equally guilty of the crime. Therefore, an accomplice may share the same charge and punishment as the principal criminal.

Difference Between Accessory and Accomplice

What is the difference between Accessory and Accomplice?

Scene of Crime:

Accessory: Accessory is not usually present during the crime.

Accomplice: Accomplice may or may not be present during the crime.

Charges:

Accessory: Accessory may receive lesser charges and punishments.

Accomplice: Accomplice may receive the same charges and punishments as the principal offender.

Assistance in the Crime:

Accessory: An accessory usually helps the principal before or after the crime.

Accomplice: An accomplice helps the principal before and during the crime.

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