One of the more confusing criminal charges California has is the accessory after the fact. Many people don’t know that it’s possible to get into trouble for a crime that they weren’t involved with until well after the crime happened.
California law stipulates that anyone who basically takes steps to hinder a criminal investigation could be charged with accessory after the fact. This means that if you help or conceal a loved one who has committed a crime, you will likely find yourself in hot legal water.
An accessory after the fact charge isn’t something you should joke about. It’s a felony that comes with a potential sentencing that includes a three-year stay in one of California’s state prisons.
Accessory after the fact charges are touched on in California’s Penal Code 32 (PC). It states that:
“Every person who, after a felony has been committed, harbors, conceals or aids a principal in such felony, with the intent that said principal may avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction or punishment, having knowledge that said the principal has committed such felony or has been charged with such felony or convicted thereof, is an accessory to such felony.”
Accessory After the Fact Crimes
What the laws doesn’t get into is how serious a charge is or how to prepare to defend yourself against the charge.
Examples of things that could result in your being charged with an accessory of the fact include:
Giving a person of interest a ride so they can evade law enforcement
Providing a person of interest with a place to stay and failing to let the authorities know
Giving someone money so they can run from criminal charges
California has three different types of warrants. Each one serves a different purpose. Search warrants and arrest warrants are the ones that most people are familiar with, mostly because they play huge roles in various procedural shows. The third type of warrant is called a bench warrant.
The majority of the warrants currently active in California are bench warrants.
While a bench warrant means you can be arrested if the police find you, they aren’t the same as an arrest warrant. An arrest warrant typically means you’re suspected of committing a crime or wanted for questioning in regard to a crime.
Bench warrants are typically issued because you failed to do something you were supposed to take care of. Common reasons bench warrants are sworn out include:
You failed to report to a court date (a bench warrant can be issued even if you were supposed to be on the jury or serve as a witness)
Failed to pay a court fine/traffic ticket
Fell behind on court-ordered child support
Failed to follow an order that demanded you vacate a property
While everyone knows that stalking is a crime, few realize that it can be a felony or a misdemeanor (and in some cases, the accused might be charged with both a felony and a misdemeanor.)
Every single state has stalking laws. While the nuances of stalking laws vary from one state to another, for the most part, each state has the same description of what can be considered stalking. As a rule, any behavior that can be considered prolonged harassment, an obvious attempt to frighten someone, the unwanted monitoring of a person, using proximity to threaten a person, or actions that lead to emotional distress is covered by stalking laws.
Anyone who engages in the following types of behavior will likely be charged and convicted of stalking in California:
Going out of your way to follow a person
Frequently showing up at locations where you know a specific person will be
Using GPS to monitor a person’s movements
Constantly filming/photographing someone without their permission
Obsessively monitoring someone’s social media accounts, phone calls/texts, reading their emails, and studying their computer activities
Going out of your way to gather as much information as you can about a specific person
Leveling threats against a person or their loved ones (including pets) if they don’t spend time with you
Instigating property damage
Sending gifts and other forms of communication after you’ve been told to stop doing so
Domestic violence is a complex crime so it shouldn’t come as surprise to learn that the laws dealing with domestic violence are equally complicated.
The first step in unraveling this complex system is knowing exactly what domestic violence is.
California defines domestic violence as actions that either harm or threaten to harm an intimate partner.
It’s important to understand that there are sub-categories of domestic violence which include:
Domestic battery (actual physical abuse)
Domestic assault (the use of words or actions to threaten physical abuse)
It’s not unusual for domestic violence cases to involve both domestic battery and domestic assault.
Who Can File Domestic Violence Charges
California law is written in such a way that only a limited number of people can file domestic violence charges. At this point, domestic violence charges can only be filed by:
Registered domestic partners
Live-in significant others (also considered a cohabitant)
Someone who shares a child with the accused
Someone who has been in a steady romantic relationship with the accused.