It’s one of those unavoidable truths that people who are in trouble with the law have friends and family who often get caught up in the negative events. All too often, loving family and romantic partners find themselves charged with aiding an offender, sometimes when they weren’t even aware that they were doing so. If you or someone you know is facing Aiding an Offender charges, one of the best ways to prepare is by understanding how the laws actually work. In Minnesota, ‘aiding’ is defined in three categories: helping and concealing, obstructing investigation, and taking responsibility for the criminal acts. How much you should worry depends on the details of your charge.
For a person to be counted as an ‘offender’ they must be attempting to somehow escape the law, but this has a slightly broad definition. Someone is considered an offender if they:
- Are covering up a recent crime
- Are escaping punishment for a crime
- Have a warrant out for their arrest or have escaped from detention
- Are parolees or on supervised release and are avoiding detection
Helping and Concealing
In an ideal world for the police, every non-criminal citizen is ultimately helpful and truthful and personal feelings don’t get in the way of good, clean justice. However, they understand that everyone, including criminals and suspects, have loved ones who want to protect them so they are very clear about how ‘aiding’ is defined.
First, they ask that you don’t “harbor, conceal, aid, or assist by word or act”. Mostly they mean hiding and lying for an offender. Usually, they won’t prosecute if they find the fugitive eating a sandwich in their mother’s house, but the definition can stretch that far if they feel that their target has been effectively hiding.
Second, you have to know or have reason to know that the person has committed a crime. This clause has two directions. It can, on one side, protect people who were completely unaware of a crime or the police’s intent to apprehend the offender. On the other side, it allows the police to argue when someone has been wilfully ignorant about obvious signs of a crime or a knowledge of the pursuit.
Finally, the person charged with aiding must have understood the validity of the crime “under the laws of this or another state or of the United States”, which protects tourists with no knowledge of local laws while holding locals responsible for knowing the state laws.
If you’re caught up in a criminal case, don’t believe anyone who tells you things that are contrary to the law. In Minnesota aiding an offender can result in no more than three years of imprisonment or $5,000 in fines, or both at once if the relevant crime was a felony. However, multiple charges and stacked sentencing are possible.
The police are willing to be understanding about concealing a loved one who is afraid of arrest, but they take special exception to being lied to and count it among the higher levels of ‘aiding’ with a much higher potential set of consequences. Those charged with obstructing investigation are considered accomplices after the fact. The Minnesota statutes define obstructing investigation as:
- Destroying or concealing evidence
- Providing false or misleading information
- Receiving proceeds from the crime (money, property, etc.)
- Otherwise obstructing investigation or prosecution
As an accomplice, you could face up to half the statutory maximum prison time and half the maximum fine for the crime of the offender. When considering how serious this is, obviously the crime in question should be examined.
Aiding with Responsibility
The final form of aiding is one of taking responsibility for the crime committed. If you confess to or the police discover that you orchestrated or otherwise took primary responsibility for a crime, either they will charge you with the first crime or for aiding with responsibility.
Aiding with responsibility is a separate charge from the original crime, which you can also be charged with. As long as you are only tried for orchestrating, but not the crime itself, you face half the maximum imprisonment time and half the maximum fines. If the offender was a child, the crime will be treated as if they were an adult for the sake of aiding charges.
The system is set up so that, for the most part, punishments for aiding are proportional with the severity of crime they impeded the investigation of. If you or someone you know is facing charges of aiding an offender and would like more information, please contact us today.
The information presented in this article is not considered legal advice. Please contact our law office to speak to an attorney about your case.