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 five or more years in prison, plus a fine.
It is possible to be convicted of conspiracy even when you committed no other crime. Federal prosecutors will often try to convict a defendant on a conspiracy charge even if they don’t have enough evidence to support the main charge; however, it is possible to beat these charges. You need help from a conspiracy lawyer in Los Angeles.
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, so fill out the form to the right or give us a call to get started today.
What Is the Legal Definition of “Conspiracy”?
The legal definition of conspiracy is two or more people agreeing to commit a crime. Usually, a charge of “conspiracy” is coupled with the violation the people allegedly agreed to commit. Thus, you might be charged with “conspiracy to commit mail fraud” or “conspiring to traffic drugs.”
The prosecution needs to establish two facts to prove their case:
- They must show that the defendant made an arrangement with another person to commit a crime. The agreement can be either written or oral.
- They must show that there was an “overt act” that moved the conspiracy forward.
An “overt act” simply means that you took another step after agreeing to commit the crime like, for example, if you decided to rob a bank and then purchased guns to use in the robbery. However, if you agreed to rob a bank but never did anything to follow through with the plan, then there was no overt act and no crime was committed.
Conspiracy Charges Are Often Grouped with Other Charges
Conspiracy charges are often combined with a charge of committing the crime itself. Therefore, you might be charged with both “conspiracy to traffic drugs” and “drug trafficking.” The drug trafficking charge relates to a completed crime; meanwhile, the conspiracy charge relates to your agreement to commit the offense in the first place.
For a free legal consultation with a conspiracy lawyer serving Los Angeles, call (310) 928-9347
What If I Never Committed a Crime?
The conspiracy itself is a crime. Because of this, you can be convicted regardless. All it takes is a plan or agreement to commit a crime and then taking any step toward it.
Take 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 if you never set foot inside the bank. If you buy guns and then back out of the plan, a tip to the police could lead to your arrest and conviction for conspiracy.
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How Do Federal Conspiracy Laws Work?
There is a general federal conspiracy law, 18 U.S.C. §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 particular laws carry much harsher penalties than the standard conspiracy charge.
- Conspiracy to commit racketeering
- Conspiracy to monopolize trade
- Conspiracy to restrain trade
- Conspiracy to commit sports bribery
- Conspiracy against citizens’ rights
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. Both the agreement and the overt act. Therefore, the most common defenses are:
- No agreement
- No overt act
- Improper collection or handling of evidence
It can be difficult to prove there was an agreement to commit a crime, especially if the arrangement was oral or the crime was not completed. Most criminals don’t write up a contract to commit a crime. 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.
Improper Collection or Handling of Evidence
Evidence gathering by police always carries a potential for abuse. If the police violated your Fourth Amendment rights against unlawful search and seizure, critical evidence may be inadmissible. Likewise, there is a chain of custody that law enforcement must follow with regard to any evidence gathered. If that chain gets broken, the evidence may become void.
Your lawyer will petition to have this evidence suppressed. If that weakens the prosecution’s case enough, it may be dismissed entirely.
If 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?
The penalties for conspiracy in California depend on who is prosecuting the crime. Depending on the underlying offense, it could be handled on either the state or federal level. If tried on the state level, conspiracy falls under California Penal Code §182.
PC 182 can be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony. A state-level charge is punishable based on the underlying offense. If the underlying charge carries a maximum of four years in prison, then a conspiracy conviction will also carry a maximum of four years in prison.
What If You’re Charged with Multiple Crimes?
If the defendant conspired to commit multiple crimes, they will face the potential penalties of the most serious crime. If the crime they conspired to engage in was a misdemeanor, then the conspiracy charge could be either a misdemeanor or a felony charge. How the prosecution decides how to proceed will depend on a variety of factors.
On the federal level, a violation of 18 U.S.C. §371 carries a maximum penalty of five 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.
Conspiracy to Commit Racketeering
The maximum sentence for this offense is 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. However, if the conspiracy also involved murder, a life sentence is possible.
Conspiracy to Monopolize or Restrain Trade
The maximum penalty for this type of violation is ten years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million.
Conspiracy to Commit Sports Bribery
A conviction for this charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.
Conspiracy Against Citizens’ Rights
There are a variety of penalties that can be assessed for this offense. For a serious violation, there is even the potential for a sentence of life in prison or the death penalty.
Because the penalties for conspiracy can be severe, it is important to talk with a qualified federal criminal lawyer as soon as possible. You should contact an attorney even if you have not yet been charged.
Hiring a lawyer as soon as you learn you are under investigation will put you in the best position. The sooner a lawyer begins working on your case, the easier it will be to build a strong defense.
Talk to a Conspiracy Lawyer in Los Angeles Today 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.
Give us a call or fill out our online contact form today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with one of our Los Angeles conspiracy lawyers. We will review your case and advise you of your legal options. Should you choose to hire us, we will then immediately get to work building your case.