To be guilty of conspiracy, two or more persons must enter into an agreement to carry out a crime, and they must generally take some overt step in furtherance of the agreement. Simply talking about what they would like to do in the future does not give rise to the conspiracy. The conspirators must actually begin to do something to further their plan.
To prove a conspiracy, the prosecutors therefore generally need to establish three elements:
- An intent to commit a crime;
- An agreement by one person with another person to engage in the crime;
- The commission of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.
While conspiracy can be charged in every state and in connection with almost every major criminal offense, it is also against the federal. A federal statute, 18 U.S.C. § 371, prohibits conspiracy at the federal level by making it a separate federal crime for anyone to conspire or agree with someone else to do something which, if actually carried out, would amount to another crime or offense against the United States.
Defenses to Conspiracy
The most common and direct defense to conspiracy is simply to demonstrate that no agreement existed. A conspiracy conviction can only be based on proof of an agreement. Thus, if the agreement can be disproven, then the crime cannot exist. There are a number of ways to defeat the agreement:
- Prove that the other person was pretending to agree; thus there was never an actual agreement between the parties.
- Prove that the other person was a minor; thus he was incapable of entering into an actual agreement (if state law recognizes this defense).
- Prove that the other person was mental or emotionally disturbed; thus he was incapable of entering into an actual agreement.
- Prove that the other person was an undercover police officer; thus, there was never an actual agreement between the parties.
- Wait for each of the other co-conspirators to be found not guilty of conspiracy; thus there is nobody who ever entered into an actual agreement with the suspect.
In some cases, we also may be able to show that a suspect mistook the law and actually believed that the agreement that he made was to engage in a lawful act. If there was no specific intent to commit a crime, and if a genuine mistake of law can be proven, the conspiracy may be defeated.
Let us leverage our skill and expertise to assist you with your case. If you or someone you know is facing a conspiracy charge, please call the Law Offices of Mark S. Guralnick at 1-866-337-2900 for a free case evaluation.