Sometimes being paid “hush money” is against the law. For example, if you catch someone breaking into your house to steal your valuables, and then you accept $500 from the wrongdoer in exchange for not reporting the burglary to the authorities, you may have committed a crime.
Michigan law on compounding offenses
Under the Michigan Penal Code, a compounding or concealing offense exists if the following elements are met.
- First, you must know that someone committed or tried to commit a crime against you that is punishable by imprisonment in a state facility or that is subject to the death penalty.
- Second, in exchange for money or other compensation, you must expressly or implicitly agree to either hide the alleged crime, to not prosecute the alleged crime or to not to give evidence in a trial against the alleged wrongdoer.
If you meet these two elements, you could be prosecuted for committing a compounding or concealing offense.
If the alleged wrongdoer to the would face death penalty or a life sentence in prison, a compounding or concealing offense is a felony crime. Compounding or concealing an offense that subjects the wrongdoer to any other penalty is a misdemeanor crime.
Generally, it is a crime victim who commits a compounding or concealing offense because they are the one who would bring charges against the alleged wrongdoer.
It may be tempting to accept money to keep quiet about a crime, especially if it is a significant amount of money. Still, doing so is a state crime that could be prosecuted and lead to jail time if convicted.