What is conspiracy to commit a crime?

Many individuals do not realize that they can be charged with conspiracy to commit a crime even if the criminal action was not committed. Recently on our legal forum a user asked, “What is a conspiracy to commit a crime? I have been charged with conspiracy, but I didn’t actually commit the crime in question.”

What is a conspiracy?

By definition, a conspiracy is an agreement between two individuals to commit a future criminal action. Keep in mind, the state generally will only have to prove there was a plan, the plan contained illegal actions, and all the parties involved had an agreement to carry out the plan.

Consider, however, the defendant must actually have intended to agree to the crime and must have intended to accomplish the objective of the conspiracy when he entered into the agreement.

In some states criminal conspiracy charges may also require some action or overt act to be carried out to initiate the agreement.  If an overt act is needed, however, the crime may not have to be completed.

For instance, if you and your friend talked about robbing the local convenience store, and one or both of you bought guns, cased the store, and prepared a getaway car, you can be charged with conspiracy regardless of whether or not you actually robbed the store.

Consider, however, if no one else agrees to commit the crime with you, you cannot be charged with conspiracy. If there is an agreement between multiple people, however, the state may decide to charge all parties involved.

Charged with conspiracy now what?

The good news is all defendants in the United States are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law by their peers. It will be up to the state to present evidence that proves beyond a reasonable doubt that a crime has been committed.

If the state proves their criminal conspiracy case against you, you may receive fines, jail time, or probation.

What if I agree to a crime but didn’t know it?

If you have been charged with conspiracy but you did not know what you agreed to do was a crime, it is time to talk to a criminal lawyer. Whether or not you can be charged with conspiracy to commit a crime if you did not understand it was illegal may depend on the jurisdiction.

For example, some jurisdictions hold that ignorance of the law is not a defense so it will not matter whether or not you knew it was illegal. Other jurisdictions, however, may not criminalize conspiracy if you can prove that you did not know the objective of the conspiracy was illegal.

What if I never said I would help out?

Assisting with the plan to commit an illegal action may be sufficient to make you a co-conspirator, even if you did not expressly state that you would help with the plan. For example, if you drive past a convenience store and you see your buddy Daryl robbing the store and you stop your car and help Daryl escape the scene, you can be charged with conspiracy even if you and Daryl never previously discussed your involvement in the crime.

Bottom line:

You can be charged with criminal conspiracy when you intend to commit a crime and you make an agreement with another person to commit the criminal offense. In some jurisdictions you may also have to take at least one overt act to prepare to commit the crime.

Consider, however, conspiracy does not depend on whether or not the crime is actually committed. You can, however, be charged with both conspiracy and additional charges if the crime is committed.

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Category: Criminal Law