Everyone knows it’s illegal to hide the body of a murder victim, whether the person hiding the corpse is the murderer or someone aiding and abetting the murderer. But it’s also illegal to hide a body even if the victim died as a result of an accident. If you have been accused of concealing an accidental death, it’s important you contact a criminal lawyer as soon as possible.
Hiding an Accidental Death
There are many reasons someone may conceal an accidental death. Movies and TV shows often depict situations where people hide a corpse because they believe they will be accused of murder even though the victim died as a result of an accident. There have been many people who have concealed the death of a family member in order to keep collecting benefits such as pensions, social security checks, etc. But in some cases, people act out of a misguided belief that they are helping the deceased by hiding the fact that they died in a way their loved one deems to be embarrassing, through a drug overdose or sexual situation, for example.
In some cases, a person who may not know the victim may not want to be involved with the investigation. So, for example, if someone who cooks methamphetamine on his property discovers a body on his land, but he does not want to deal with the police, he may hide the body to avoid an investigation on his property.
The Critical Elements
When it comes to concealing an accidental death, there are two key elements of this crime: 1) that the act was accidental and 2) that the suspect either concealed the body or frustrated the ability of the deceased person’s family members or authorities to discover the body. These details are important, because if the person died from natural causes such as a heart attack or stroke, this law doesn’t apply. The death must be accidental, which means that it was unexpected, such as a car accident, fire, fall, drowning or an incident involving a weapon.
Similarly, just seeing a corpse and failing to report it is not covered by this law. Instead, a person must have actively either hidden the body or else made it more difficult for police or family members to find the body. For example, reporting seeing the person alive far away from where the body actually is located would be considered frustrating the ability of authorities to find the body.
It’s worth adding that this crime, however, is not as commonly prosecuted as being an accessory to a homicide. Prosecutors and police focus on anyone who assists in the commission or cover up of a killing.
Penalties for Concealing a Body
This charge is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $10,000. If you attempted to hide the body, but found that you were unable to do so, for example, you tried to drag it to a new location but couldn’t lift it, you will be sentenced to half of what you would be sentenced to if you were found guilty of actually committing the crime. Depending on the specifics of the situation, you may face other charges as well, such as destroying evidence, manslaughter, perjury or lying to the police.
If you have been accused of concealing the corpse of someone who died accidentally, please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation with Peter M. Liss.
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