A criminal conspiracy exists when two or more parties agree to commit a crime and take steps toward completing the crime. The actual commission of the crime isn’t required to be found guilty of a conspiracy charge.
A conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years in prison and fines unless the crime is charged as a misdemeanor. Understanding the elements of a conspiracy charge can help you better defend against these types of criminal charges.
Entering into an agreement
A conspiracy cannot exist without two or more people agreeing to commit a criminal act. The agreement doesn’t have to be explicit. Few people are going to say to one another, “I agree to rob a bank with you.” Agreements are often implied. For example, if two people meet to plan a criminal act, that is usually enough to show there was an agreement.
Intending to commit a criminal act
You must intend to commit the criminal act to show there was a conspiracy. If your friend tells you he’s going to rob a bank and you shrug your shoulders, you have probably not intended to commit the crime. However, if you offer to participate in the crime in some way, the prosecution has a strong case for showing intent.
Taking steps to commit the act
There is nothing illegal about talking about a crime. No one is going to lock you and your friends up for suggesting a bank robbery. However, if some steps are taken toward committing the robbery, such as renting a getaway car or purchasing weapons to help carry out the crime, you will have taken some steps toward committing the act.
If, at some point during the planning stages, you decide to walk away, you must take some overt steps to remove yourself from the conspiracy. Simply stating, “I’m out” is usually not enough to beat a conspiracy charge.
Building a defense against conspiracy charges
A conspiracy charge can result in additional criminal consequences. You should always protect your rights by establishing a solid criminal defense. You should discuss your case with a skilled professional to determine your options.