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When Does a Conspiracy Exist?

Apr 19, 2008
Of all criminal charges, the most intimidating can be federal charges. This is especially true when one is dealing with a federal conspiracy charge. Some may ask just want exactly is a conspiracy? A conspiracy exists when two or more people form an agreement to do some act or refrain from doing some act.

A conspiracy to commit a crime is a crime in and of itself, which means that conspiracy is charged as a separate offense and apart from the crime that the parties to the conspiracy conspired to commit.

There are several reasons for a prosecutor to charge someone with conspiracy, and despite the fact that the law defines conspiracy as "agreement" between two or more persons, only one person need intend to commit a crime out of the conspiracy.

Most federal statutes require that the government prove at least one of the co-conspirators committed an overt act during the course and in furtherance of the unlawful agreement. For example, an overt act is required for a conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. 371 (to commit offense against or to defraud the United States), 18 U.S.C. 1117 (to commit murder); 18 U.S.C. 1201 (kidnapping); and 18 U.S.C. 1751 (Presidential assassination).

However, an overt act is not required for 18 U.S.C. 241 (violate civil rights); 18 U.S.C. 2385 (advocate overthrow of government); 21 U.S.C. 846 (drugs); and 21 U.S.C. 963 (RICO).

In order to be convicted of a conspiracy the evidence must prove the defendant knew of the conspiracy, purposefully associated themselves with it and affirmatively cooperated in it, or at least agreed to cooperate in the objective of the conspiracy.

However, the law is established that mere presence at a location, even with knowledge that a crime is being committed there, is not sufficient to establish that a defendant was a member of the conspiracy.

The punishment for conspiracy laws is generally the same as the punishment for the underlying crime agreed upon by the conspirators. However, many things can actually factor into the punishment.

If the government believes that the conspiracy has been ongoing in nature, they may attempt to introduce evidence of all the prior acts of which they have knowledge.

This is common in drug conspiracies where the quantities are often times added together to produce a much larger amount than may have actually been seized. Many times the government has obtained this information related to the conspiracy from a cooperating witness.

There are defenses to the crime of conspiracy. Thus, it is important to hire counsel who has experience in this area of the law.
About the Author
Neil Lemons represents Teakell Law. For more information on conspiracy defense attorney in the Dallas/Fort Worth area visit their website http://www.teakelllaw.com.
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