Criminal Defense Lawyers
Accessory After the Fact
(PC 32 Law & Defense)
The law on the crime of accessory after the fact is found at California penal code section 32 (PC 32).
Definition: To be an accessory after the fact, means to harbor, conceal, or aid another person, who committed a crime, with the intent to help the person who committed the crime avoid arrest, conviction, or punishment.
In other words, an accessory after the fact is a person who knows that another person committed a crime and nevertheless helps that person avoid arrest after the crime is committed.
For example, giving a false alibi for someone who committed a crime is an accessory after the fact. Other examples include giving money to someone to help them while they are avoiding capture, loaning someone a vehicle to avoid capture, cleaning or concealing evidence of another person's crime, etc.
No duty to report: A person is not guilty of being an accessory after the fact to a crime simply because the person knows that a crime occurred and does not report the crime to the police (there are limited exceptions to this rule). Also, a person who is present when another person commits a crime is not necessarily an accessory to a crime or an accessory after the fact to a crime. Finally, a person who is not aware of any criminal activity but nevertheless innocently aids another person who committed a crime is not criminally liable as an accessory after the fact.
Note: To be an accessory after the fact is not the same as being an aider and abettor to a crime. An aider and abettor to a crime is a person who actually participated in committing a crime in some way.
For example: If a person arranges for a hideout for a defendant before the defendant commits a crime then the person may be liable as an aider and abettor to the crime. However, if the person arranges for a hideout for a defendant only after the defendant commits a crime, and the person did not know that the defendant was going to commit a crime in the first place, then the person is liable as an accessory after the fact only.
Punishment for PC 32
According to PC 32, the crime of accessory after the fact is a wobbler, which means that PC 32 may be charged as a misdemeanor or as a felony.
Misdemeanor PC 32: If found guilty of accessory after the fact as a misdemeanor the defendant may be sentenced up to a year in the county jail. Misdemeanor PC 32 is charged as PC32-M in criminal filings.
Felony PC 32: If the defendant is found guilty of accessory after the fact as a felony the defendant could face up to three years in prison. Felony PC is charged as PC32-F in criminal filings.
A probation sentence, with or without actual jail, is allowed in PC 32 cases. whether or not a defendant will be granted a probation sentence depends largely on the facts on the case and the defendant's criminal history. In felony PC 32 cases, the defendant may serve her time in a local county jail as opposed to prison under new California law. Also, felony jail sentences may be split or suspended depending on the circumstances (See PC 1170(h)).
In addition to any possible jail or prison sentences, if found guilty of accessory after the fact, the defendant may be punished with harsh probation or parole terms, insurmountable fines, immigration consequences (for non-U.S. citizens), employment restrictions, restraining orders, and more.
Three Strikes Law: PC 32 is not considered a strike offense as the crime is not a serious or violent offense as defined by California's Three Strikes Law.
Bail: The San Bernardino County presumptive bail amount for PC 32 is $25,000 for serious or violent felonies, or half the amount of the target offense, whichever is greater. For example, if the defendant is accused of accessory after the fact of to the crime of murder (target offense), then the defendant's bail amount will be $500,000, which is half the presumptive amount for the crime of murder. The bail amount for misdemeanor charges of PC 32 is $5,000 in San Bernardino County.
Defense to PC 32
Common defenses to penal code 32 include: statute of limitations, mistake of fact, coerced confessions, duress, lack of jurisdiction, and more. For more information on defenses to the crime of accessory after the fact see defense to crime.
If you have been charged with accessory after the fact, or California PC 32, contact our criminal defense attorneys without delay for free consultation. Our criminal defense attorneys will patiently explain your rights and options for defense. Our criminal defense attorneys are available seven days a week. Call today!
Quick Reference Sheet
Crime: Accessory After the Fact
Code: PC 32 (CalCrim No. 440)
Wobbler (Yes): PC 32 is a wobbler crime. PC 32 may be charged as a felony or as a misdemeanor.
Incarceration: Felony PC 32 jail sentence range: 16 months, 2 or 3 years (if probation not granted). Misdemeanor jail sentence up to 180 days.
Probation: Probation may be available in PC 32 cases (assuming other crimes or enhancements that bar a probation sentence are not present). Whether or not a probation sentence is offered by the District Attorney, or granted by the court, depends on several factors, including the defendant's criminal history and the facts of the case.
Work Release: In some cases, a probation sentence can include actual in-custody county jail, house arrest (electronic monitoring), or work release (or some combination of these penalties); however, most in-custody jail sentence orders that are required as a terms of probation are much shorter than the maximum jail sentence.
PC 1170(h)): Yes. PC 32 is subject to PC 1170(h) sentencing. This means that any jail or prison sentence may be:
Split (half in-custody / half out-of-custody)
Suspended (possibly never served)
Served in county jail (not state prison)
Note: Limitations may apply
Strike: PC 32 is not a strike offense listed in California's Three Strikes law.
Credits: 50% good conduct credits available.
CIMT: PC 32 is not a crime involving moral turpitude.
Firearms: Felony PC 32 convictions bar defendant from owning or possessing a firearm.
Bail: $25,000 ($50,000 for serious or violent offense), or half the bail amount of the principal offense (San Bernardino County)
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