Some people incorrectly believe that if a crime is committed, only the person that directly commits the unlawful act is punished. However, based on their role or knowledge of the crime, other individuals can also be punished (with either the same sentence as the main accused or one fitting their involvement). The issue at question in this article is accessory after the fact. According to California Penal Code 32 PC, if someone harbours, conceals, or aids a felony criminal (so as to help the criminal avoid arrest and/or subsequent punishments) the person is guilty of being an accessory after the fact.
A distinguishing characteristic of being an accessory after the fact is that the individual did not know of the felony crime until after it was committed. This individual still does something that helps the criminal after the crime has occurred, but if the individual had knowledge of the unlawful plan and intended to help with an aspect of it after its completion, that no longer becomes accessory after the fact and changes to becoming an aider and abetter.
In order for the prosecution to prove that the accused is guilty of being an accessory after the fact, they must prove several key elements to be true. First, the crime that was committed must have been a felony. Then, the individual who committed the felony must be harbored, concealed, or aided by the accused (knowing that the individual has either committed/been charged with/or convicted of an unlawful act that is a felony in the state of California). Finally, the defendant must have done the aforementioned in order to prevent a course of justice, such as an arrest or sentencing. If the defendant is found guilty of being an accessory after the fact, they can be sentenced to paying a fine and/or going to prison for up to 3 years.