Anytime you’re charged with a federal crime, you could also be charged with “conspiracy to commit” that crime. Conspiracy is a separate criminal charge that can lead to 5 or more years in prison, plus a fine. You can be convicted of conspiracy even if no other crime was committed, and the federal prosecutors will try to convict you on a conspiracy charge even if they don’t have enough evidence to support the main charge. But that doesn’t mean you have to be convicted. You need help from a Los Angeles conspiracy lawyer.
At the Simmrin Law Group, we know how to deal with tough prosecutors. Our attorneys have years of experience representing people who have been charged with conspiracy and other federal crimes. We can give you a free consultation to explain our services and begin planning your defense. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.
What is the legal definition of “conspiracy”?
The legal definition of conspiracy is simple: it’s when two or more people agree to commit a crime. Usually a charge of “conspiracy” is coupled with the crime the people allegedly agreed to commit. Thus, you might be charged with “conspiracy to commit mail fraud” or “conspiring to traffick drugs.”
To prove its case, the prosecution needs to establish two facts:
- The defendant made an agreement with someone else to commit a crime. The agreement can be either oral or written.
- There was some “overt act” that moved the conspiracy forward. An “overt act” simply means that you took another step after agreeing to commit the crime. For example, if you agreed to rob a bank and then bought guns to use in the robbery, that is an “overt act.” But if you agreed to rob a bank but never did anything to follow through with the plan, there was no overt act and no crime was committed.
Conspiracy charges are often combined with a charge of committing the crime itself. Therefore, you might be charged with both “conspiracy to traffick drugs” and “drug trafficking.” The drug trafficking charge relates to a completed crime, while the conspiracy charge relates to your agreement to commit the crime in the first place.
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What if I never committed any crime?
Conspiracy itself is a crime, so you can be convicted regardless. All it takes is a plan or agreement to commit some crime, and taking any step toward it.
In the bank robbery example, if the police see you and your friend sitting in the bank parking lot wearing ski masks, you can potentially be convicted of conspiracy even though you never set foot inside the bank.
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How do federal conspiracy laws work?
There is a general federal conspiracy law, 18 U.S.C. Section 371, that the government uses for conspiracy to commit most types of crimes. However, there are also several specialized conspiracy laws that apply to specific crimes. In many cases these specific laws carry much harsher penalties than the ordinary conspiracy charge. They include:
- Conspiracy to commit racketeering
- Conspiracy to monopolize trade
- Conspiracy to restrain trade
- Conspiracy to commit sports bribery
- Conspiracy against citizens’ rights
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What defenses can I use against a conspiracy charge?
Defenses to a federal conspiracy charge usually attack the two facts that the prosecution must prove: an agreement and an overt act. Therefore, the most common defenses are:
- No agreement. It can be difficult to prove that there was an agreement to commit a crime, especially if the agreement was oral and/or the crime was never completed. If the prosecution doesn’t have the evidence to show, beyond a reasonable doubt, that there was an agreement, you should not be convicted.
- No overt act. You can’t be convicted based on an agreement alone. You must have done something else to further your plan. Your lawyer might be able to show that your actions were not related to committing a crime.
- Objections to evidence. Evidence gathering by police always carries a potential for abuse, and if police violated search and seizure laws or other protections, critical evidence may be inadmissible, making it impossible for the prosecution to sustain its burden of proof.
If you are charged with a crime in addition to conspiracy to commit it, your lawyer may also raise additional defenses to the underlying offense.
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What are the penalties for conspiracy?
Violations of the general conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. Section 371, carry a maximum penalty of 5 years in federal prison and a fine. However, if the crime you supposedly conspired to commit was a misdemeanor, the penalty for conspiracy can’t be any greater than the penalty for the crime itself.
Some of the other, more specific, conspiracy statutes impose stricter penalties:
- For conspiracy to commit racketeering, the maximum sentence is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If the conspiracy also involved murder, a life sentence is possible.
- For conspiracy to monopolize or restrain trade, the maximum penalty is 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
- Conspiracy to commit sports bribery carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
- Conspiracy against citizens’ rights has a variety of penalties and carries the potential for a sentence of life in prison or the death penalty.
Because the penalties for conspiracy can be severe even where no crime was ever completed, it is important to talk with a qualified federal criminal lawyer as soon as possible after you have been charged or learn you are under investigation. The sooner a lawyer begins working on your case, the easier it will be to build a strong defense.
Talk to a Los Angeles Conspiracy Lawyer for Free
At the Simmrin Law Group, we have lawyers who have dedicated their careers to helping people facing federal criminal charges. The feds will work hard to convict you, but we know how to attack their evidence and pursue every available defense. Let us give you a FREE consultation. Fill out the form to the right or call us at 310-997-4688 and get your free consultation today.