Misprison of a Felony | Aiding and Abetting


What is Misprision of a Felony?

The technical definition of Misprision can be found in the statute itself, 18 USC 4: Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

18 USC 4 makes misprision a federal offense. A person commits misprision if they know of the actual commission of a felony and conceals or fails to notify law enforcement of the commission of the offense. Misprision is punishable by up to three years in federal prison.

While this definition appears to make all failures to report a known crime a crime itself, this is not the case. Additionally, in order to be guilty of misprision, a person must also attempt to conceal that crime. See U.S. v. Graves, 720 F.2d 821 (In order to sustain a conviction for misprision of a felony, the government must prove that a felony was committed, that [the accused] had knowledge of the felony, that he failed to notify authorities, and that he took an affirmative step to conceal the crime…. [M]ere failure to report a felony is not sufficient. Violation of the misprision statute additionally requires some positive act designed to conceal from authorities the fact that a felony has been committed.) Ultimately, her vulnerability to prosecution for misprision largely depends on the efforts she took to conceal evidence or hide his actions once he commenced the rampage.

In addition to misprision, she may be subject to prosecution for the rampage itself. That is, certain theories under the law of parties allow for people who assist in crimes to be subject to prosecution as if they were principle actors.

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What is aiding and abetting?

Once again, starting with the statute itself, aiding and abetting is defined this way: 18 USC 2 makes aiding and abetting a federal offense. A person who aids, abets, counsels, commands, induces or procures its commission, is punishable as a principal. A person who is guilty of aiding and abetting faces the same punishment range as the principal. The Supreme Court has defined aiding and abetting as assisting the perpetrator of a crime. United States v. Williams, 341 U.S. 58 (1951)

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Benson Varghese

Managing Partner at Varghese Summersett PLLC
Benson Varghese is the founder and Managing Partner of Varghese Summersett PLLC. He is a prolific writer and has authored hundreds of articles about criminal law in Texas and at the Federal level. His articles have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Above the Law, and have been selected as Top Blogs by the State Bar of Texas. He was named the Young Lawyer of the Year in 2019 by the Tarrant County Bar Association. Benson led the firm to become one of the 500 fastest growing businesses in the United States by Inc 500 Magazine in 2018. In the same year, the firm was named the Best Law Firm in Fort Worth by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The lawyers at Varghese Summersett PLLC exclusively handle criminal defense matters.
Benson Varghese