Principal in the Second Degree and Accessory Before the Fact

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Accomplice and Accessory Liability in Virginia

In Virginia an accomplice or accessory to a crime may be charged as if they actually committed the crime:

In the case of every felony, every principal in the second degree and every accessory before the fact may be indicted, tried, convicted and punished in all respects as if a principal in the first degree

Virginia Code § 18.2-18

Any such accessory before the fact may be indicted either with such principal or separately.

Virginia Code § 18.2-21

The primary difference between a Principal in the Second Degree and an Accessory or Accomplice Before the Fact is whether you are present during the commission of the underlying crime. A Principal in the Second Degree is present during the actual commission of the crime, whereas an Accessory Before the Fact is someone who has facilitated the commission of a crime beforehand in some material way, but is not present during the crime itself.

Consult with an Attorney if Charged as an Accessory or Accomplice

If you are charged as an accessory or accomplice in Virginia, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. And more specifically, you should get your own attorney. In cases with accessories, it is likely deals will be offered to the defendants that help them, but hurt co-defendants, or require testimony that may be prejudicial to yourself. Even if co-defendants initially hire and share an attorney, it is likely that due to conflicts, they will have to seek separate counsel anyway. When a case involves someone charged as an accessory, working with the prosecutors and protecting your interests becomes much more complicated. A local attorney familiar with the courts and personal and all the more valuable in theses cases. Contact us today.