Accessories in the criminal law are accused of aiding someone in the commission of a crime but only before or after the crime was committed. A criminal defendant can be accused of being an accessory to drug charges. This was illustrated by the recent arrest by New York State Police of a man for the felony of hindering the prosecution of another man who was being sought on a felony drug possession charge.
An accessory after the fact is not charged with being a main actor in the original crime. Instead, he or she is charged with providing shelter and support to help the fugitive escape apprehension after the crime occurred. In this case, police received a tip that a man they were seeking on a felony warrant of possession of a controlled substance was being secreted in a home in Gloversville.
The police went to the property and first arrested a man leaving the premises in a car. They report that the man was wanted for not paying a fine, but they arrested him for possession of heroin. That arrest has several search and seizure issues that will possibly raise defenses for the accused and will be closely reviewed by his defense counsel.
Police found the alleged fugitive inside the house hiding in the cellar. They arrested another man who resided at the address on a felony charge of hindering prosecution of the fugitive. This is the equivalent of arresting him as an accessory after the fact. The New York statute uses the terminology of hindering prosecution, and here it applies to allegations of hiding and sheltering the fugitive to prevent apprehension.
The New York State Police have charged that the defendant knew that he was sheltering a fugitive on a felony charge. Police must prove that the resident in fact gave actual shelter to the individual and that it was not someone else in the home who was providing shelter. They will also have to prove that the defendant knew that there was a warrant for the man's arrest on felony drug charges. Knowledge of the felony warrant is an indispensable element of the hindering prosecution charge.
Source: cbs6albany.com, "Gloversville man arrested on warrant, others arrested in connection", March 14, 2015