Conspiracy Defense Laywer
An individual could also be on the hook for every overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy that their co-conspirators have done, even if he or she did not have any direct participation during the commission of the actual crime.
A conspiracy conviction comes with severe penalties, so it is important to understand what constitutes a conspiracy. As soon as you learn that you are involved in an investigation of an alleged conspiracy, you must contact an experienced conspiracy lawyer who can help protect your rights and alleviate the impact of the charges.
What is a Conspiracy?
A conspiracy happens when two or more people agree to commit a crime. Some conspiracy charges require taking steps, or overt acts, designed to facilitate the conspiracy. The agreement to commit a crime does not have to be formal or in writing, but a mutual understanding must exist to undertake the illegal plan.
Conspiracy is an inchoate crime in that it does not require that the crime be completed for a defendant to be liable. For example, a group of people may be prosecuted or convicted of conspiracy to commit murder even if the actual murder never happens. Another thing that makes conspiracy unique is that an individual can be charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, plus the completed crime itself.
A person may still be considered a member of a conspiracy even if he or she is not aware of all the details of the illegal act or the names of all the other alleged conspirators.
The Elements of a Conspiracy
There are a number of federal conspiracy statutes. The general conspiracy statute is 18 U.S.C. § 371. Under it, the government must prove beyond a reasonable doubt the following:
- The defendant and at least one other person made an agreement to commit the offense charged in the indictment.
- The defendant knew the illicit purpose of the agreement and participated in it voluntarily (i.e., with the intent to further the unlawful scheme.)
The performance of an overt act by one of the conspirators is not required for conviction under Section 371. However, other conspiracy statutes require that one member of the conspiracy deliberately commit at least one overt act to accomplish the object of the conspiracy.
What Constitutes an Overt Act?
An overt act refers to a step taken in furtherance of the planned crime, such as procuring a weapon or organizing a meeting to plan the crime. Note that this overt act does not have to be the crime itself, nor necessarily illegal. The overt act must also happen after the group has agreed to conspire.
Although an overt act connotes affirmative action, some courts consider silence an overt act when planned, intentional, and done to support the conspiracy.
Possible Defense Strategies Against Conspiracy Charges
Conspiracy is linkable to virtually any crime—rape, murder, robbery, drug distribution, fraud, etc. However, there are various defenses an attorney can use to fight your charges. Below is a closer look at the most common defense strategies below:
Lack of Agreement
To be convicted of the crime of conspiracy, an agreement between two or more people to commit the crime must have existed. This is usually proved through circumstantial evidence. Without a meeting of the minds, no conspiracy exists.
Lack of Knowledge of the Illegal Purpose
A defendant may be able to counter the government’s proof that he knew of the conspiracy, even if he acted in a way that supported it.
You Withdrew Your Participation
If your attorney can prove that you backed out of the criminal act before it was committed or before it was intended to be carried out, you may be able to avoid conviction. You must be able to prove that you deliberately and explicitly withdrew from the conspiracy and that your exit was made clear to your accomplices.
If you convinced others not to go through with the object of the conspiracy or at least did something to prevent it from happening, your attorney could also use that as a potential defense.
Entrapment means that a government agent or law enforcement officer persuaded the accused to participate in the conspiracy. The defendant must be able to prove three things:
- The idea for the conspiracy came from the officer and not from him or her.
- The officer convinced him or her to get involved in the conspiracy.
- The defendant had no intent or predisposition to commit the crime before being persuaded to do so by law enforcement.
Why You Should Hire a Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer
Depending on the severity of the case, a conspiracy conviction can result in felony or misdemeanor charges. If convicted, you can face a lengthy prison sentence or hefty fines.
A conviction has long-lasting consequences, so hiring an experienced criminal defense attorney is essential. If you or someone you know is facing federal conspiracy charges or investigation into a possible criminal conspiracy, you must contact a federal conspiracy lawyer who can evaluate your circumstances and advise you on how to proceed.
Mr. Richard A. Serafini of the Serafini Law Office has been practicing law for 40 years. With vast experience in both criminal and civil litigation, he is just the attorney you need to build an effective defense for your conspiracy case.
Our law firm currently offers a range of legal services to the following cities and states: Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Boca Raton, West Palm Beach, Florida, Pennsylvania, and New York.
Contact us at (754) 223-4718 for a free consultation.