What is an Accessory
Under Massachusetts laws of accessory and joint venture, you can be held responsible for the criminal acts of another where you participated or acted with the specific intent that the crime occur.
That means, if you were present when a crime took place, and the Commonwealth believes that you had an understanding with the person who was actually committing the crime that you were there to support them, even if you never did anything, you can be charged along with them, just as if you had taken an active part in the offense.
Defending the Charge of Accessory
Still, to prove that you were an accessory, the Commonwealth has to prove "defendant's knowing participation in the offense." This makes it somewhat more difficult for the Commonwealth to prove its case against the accessory than it is to prove its case against the person actually committing the crime.
More importantly, however, it leaves room for the jury to decide the degree of participation that the alleged accessory had in the offense. Juries have an innate sense of justice. I some cases, that may work against you, but in this case, a jury may be convinced that the only criminal was the person actually committing the offense.
Working against you is the fact that, except in very unusual situations, you will be charged with being an accessory to a crime which is a felony. Given the sensibilities of juries on the charge of accessory as described above, and given the general rule that you should always fight felony charges, contact me now if you are charged as an accessory, or if you know someone who is.
See: G.L. c. 274 s. 2.