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Stephens v. State

    Brief Fact Summary. Defendant was convicted of being an accessory after the fact. Defendant alleges although he knew the principal had committed the offense, he merely housed the principal in exchange for cash or a part for his truck.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. There must be an affirmative act from which the intention to aid an offender to escape arrest, conviction, or punishment is obvious.

    Facts. On the night of the crime, Defendant was at his ex-wife’s house with Van Buren. Defendant agreed to let Van Buren stay with him. Van Buren informed Defendant that he had just burglarized a building earlier. Defendant told him he did not want to hear about it and that was the end of it. Defendant, in exchange for letting Van Buren stay with him, received $100.00. Defendant was convicted of being an accessory after the fact. State contends that by letting Van Buren stay with him, Defendant was concealing Van Buren.

    Issue. Whether or not sufficient evidence of the element of ‘rendering assistance’ and the element of intent was presented to sustain the conviction.

    Held. The conviction is reversed and the charge is dismissed.
    There must be an affirmative act from which the intention to aid an offender, to escape arrest, conviction or punishment is obvious.

    A mere denial of knowledge is to be differentiated from an affirmative statement of facts that aids the perpetrator in some way

    The requisite intent from a plain reading of the statute is to hinder, prevent or delay the discovery or apprehension of the principal.


    Discussion. The Court focused on the lack of any affirmative act on behalf of Defendant to aid Van Buren in any way. Further they found that even his denial to the police regarding whether he had knowledge of Van Buren’s crime was self serving and in no way intended to aid Van Buren. Further, the agreement to allow Van Buren to stay with Defendant was made prior to the burglary Van Buren committed and was made for alternative reasons.


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