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South Carolina Code Annotated 16-1-40: Accessory Before the Fact (Felony)

Accessory Before the Fact (Felony) Under the South Carolina Criminal Laws (Code of Laws) Section 16-1-40, accessory before the fact involves allegations that the Defendant hired, procured, or counseled another individual (the principal, i.e., main actor) to commit a felony and the principal, thereafter, commits the felony crime.

The State of South Carolina must be able to prove (with relevant, admissible evidence) the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to sustain a conviction for accessory before the fact:

  1. That the Defendant otherwise counseled, hired, or procured a principal to commit a felony (felony criminal offense)
  2. That the Defendant was not present when the felony offense was committed
  3. That the principal committed the felony crime

In order to charge a Defendant with accessory before the fact, it is necessary for the Defendant to be absent when the crime was committed.

If the Defendant is present during the commission of the crime by the principal, the Defendant will be classified as a principal in the 2nd degree.

That is, if the Defendant was present at the commission of the crime either actively or constructively, South Carolina law views the Defendant as a principal.

1. Examples of Accessory Before the Fact

Defendant has had a tumultuous relationship with her husband. The wife comes from an incredibly wealthy family and runs an exotic zoo in York County, SC specializing in rescuing medical lab primates. Defendant is tired of supporting her “dead beat” husband. She jokes publicly, “My monkeys at least earn their keep. They’ll take care of him someday.” Defendant decides to pay one of her zoo employees to lock her husband in a cage with a violent gorilla. Before doing so she takes out a $10 million life insurance policy on her husband. Defendant also pays her employee $5,000 for the “accident,” and leaves Fort Mill to go on vacation in Columbia. A neighbor sees the employee lock the husband in a cage and calls the police. York County police arrive too late. The husband is killed. The employee is charged with murder. He subsequently confesses to police he was hired by Defendant (the Ft. Mill Monkey Queen) to kill her husband. Defendant can be charged with and convicted of accessory before the fact to murder.

Defendant is consoling his friend after the friend’s Dad cut him off from financial support. Defendant suggests to friend that he hatch a scheme to rob the safe that friend’s Dad keeps on the second floor of his house on the river in Lake Wylie, South Carolina. Defendant provides money to friend to purchase tools, etc. for safecracking. He also gives him the gate pass for River Hills Plantation. Friend promises to pay Defendant 20% of the loot. Defendant is at his girlfriend’s house when Friend decides to carry out their plan. Friend goes to Dad’s house, breaks in (B & E) and steals the cash in the safe. Dad watches his son (i.e., Defendant’s friend) on security footage steal the money. Friend is apprehended by police several hours later after Dad of friend calls police to inform them of the crime. Friend confesses to the plan hatched by him and Defendant. Defendant can be charged with accessory before the fact.

2. Related Statutes/Articles

For other similar articles or related statutes to accessory before the fact, please see:

  1. S.C. Code Annotated 16-1-55: Accessory After the Fact
  2. Definition of Principal in the 2nd Degree
  3. S.C. Code Annotated 16-3-70: Administering or Attempting to Administer Poison
  4. South Carolina Code Annotated 16-3-600: Assault and Battery in the First Degree (Felony)
  5. Murder Charges in South Carolina
  6. Carolina Law Blog – Legal Updates and Helpful Information
3. Defenses to Criminal Charges

Accessory Before the Fact (Felony) If Defendant can prove that he or she did not counsel, procure, or hire another person to commit a felony crime, the Defendant would have a valid defense to charges alleging accessory before the fact in South Carolina.

4. Penalties if Convicted

The crime of accessory before the fact is punishable by the same penalty the principal receives. For example, if Defendant hired another person to commit a homicide and the hired person commits the homicide, the Defendant can be sentenced to life imprisonment and/or death if the principal is convicted and is sentenced to life imprisonment and/or death.

5. Criminal Defense for Accessory Before the Fact in South Carolina

Hiring, counseling or procuring another person to commit a felony crime is an extremely serious crime. You face the same penalty as the individual who committed the crime. For example, if the person who committed the crime is convicted of kidnapping, you face the same penalties for kidnapping. You need to consult an experienced South Carolina criminal lawyer before it’s too late.

Criminal lawyer Chris J. Beddow is the sole South Carolina criminal defense lawyer at Powers Law Firm, PA. Chris Beddow is solely responsible for all South Carolina content on this website.

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