Though there different terms for the levels of association with committed crimes across the United States, Louisiana state law only recognizes and defines two terms.
Principal: Considering the commission of a crime, the principals are the people involved in that crime, whether they're at the location of the crime or not, or an active participant in the offense itself or not. Under Louisiana law, accomplices, accessories before the fact, and anyone aiding and abetting in any way are all considered principals because they all have a hand in the actual commission of the crime. Let's consider a bank robbery as an example. The person who goes inside of the bank, holds tellers at gun-point, and demands money is the obvious principal. However, if someone encouraged or assisted in planning the robbery, drove a getaway car, served as a lookout, or assisted in the success of this crime in any way, they are also considered principals in the state of Louisiana.
Accessories after the fact: Considering the explanation above, it seems that Louisiana would consider accessories after the fact as principals, too. However, that is not the case due to the fact that they are not directly assisting the commission of the crime. Accessories after the fact, though, are those that have knowledge of the crime or have reasonable ground to believe that the crime was committed. Therefore, they have knowledge that they are assisting the offender(s) in avoiding criminal proceedings. Going back to the bank robbery example, an accessory after the fact would be someone that would hide the principals, money, gun, or any other evidence to avoid police or prosecution of the principals. However, if the person that assisted in hiding the evidence as mentioned also assisted in planning or encouraged the commission of the crime in any way beforehand, they would be considered a principal and not an accessory after the fact.
Because Louisiana considers all those affiliated with the commission of a crime as principals, all principals, regardless of level of assistance, can be held to the same penalties as the primary principal. These penalties are dependent on the crime committed and, therefore, further information on penalties for all principals can be found in any individual Louisiana statute.
Accessories after the fact are fined no more than $500 and/or a prison sentence, with or without hard labor, no more than 5 years. However, an accessory after the fact can not be sentenced to more than half of the maximum penalty by law for the principal offender(s). It should also be noted that accessories after the fact can be tried and punished even if the principals were not arrested, tried, convicted, or punished in any way.
If you've been involved in a crime, it's imperative that you seek quality legal counsel. Give Kevin Stockstill a call today for experienced legal representation.