Hypothetical: Gerald and Dave planned to rob a bank in York County, South Carolina.  Gerald was to go inside with a gun, get the money, and return to the car.  Dave was to be the driver of the getaway car.  The robbery was carried out as planned; Gerald and Dave left the scene without being apprehended.  Thereafter, they decide to hideout in Lancaster, SC.  Gerald stayed with Delia, who knew that Gerald and Dave had completed their activity at the bank.  Nevertheless, she made no effort to notify the police.  She also told Gerald that he could use her car if he wanted to go anywhere.  Dave stayed with his mother who also knew the robbery had been committed, but she too made no attempt to notify the police.

  1. Can Dave be convicted as a principal in the crime of robbery?

Yes, the defendant can be convicted of robbery as a principal

Under South Carolina law, a principal to a crime is any person who has the specific intent to commit a crime and engages in any act necessary to accomplish that crime.  Unlike the common law rule, a principal is a person who instigates, encourages, or participates in the commission of the crime in any way.  The common law distinctions between the various degrees of accessories have been abolished in South Carolina, and every party to the crime is treated as a principal.  Every conspirator to a crime, who does not withdraw from its commission, is treated as a principal.

In this problem, Gerald and Dave entered into a conspiracy to rob a York County bank.  Pursuant to the plan, Dave was designated to drive the getaway car after the robbery was committed, while Gerald actually carried out the robbery.  After the robbery, Dave drove Gerald away.  These acts were part and parcel of the plan to rob the bank.  When committed, each participant in the crime is treated as a principal.  On these facts, Dave can be convicted as a principal in the robbery.

  1. Can Delia, or Dave’s mother be convicted of being an accessory after the fact

No, neither Delia nor the mother can be convicted of being an accessory after the fact.

Pursuant to South Carolina law, an accessory after the fact is any person who: (i) has knowledge that the principal has committed a crime; and (ii) knowingly gives personal assistance in escaping or attempting to escape detection, arrest, or punishment.  Mere knowledge is not sufficient to support a conviction as an accessory after the fact; nor can a person be convicted because the crime is not reported to the police.

The facts presented in the problem show that Delia, and Dave’s mother both knew that the two principals had committed the robbery.  Neither reported the crime to the police, but such reporting is not required, and the failure to do so does not make the person an accessory after the fact.  Both had knowledge of the facts, but neither did anything to assist the two avoid detection, arrest, or punishment.  This is the case even if Delia offered Gerald the use of her car if he wanted to go anywhere.  No facts illustrated that her car was used as assistance in avoiding the detection, arrest, or punishment of Gerald.  This offer to allow Gerald to use her car was not sufficient to turn Delia into an accessory after the fact.

If you or a loved one has been charged as an accessory before or after the fact of a crime, the law can get very complicated.  This is why it is so important to have adequate representation.  Call the law offices of Reeves, Aiken & Hightower, LLP if you have been charged as an accessory to a criminal offense.  For a consultation call us at our Baxter Village office located in Fort Mill, South Carolina at 803-548-4444, or toll-free at 877-374-5999.