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Last Updated on: 1st August 2023, 04:03 pm
Federal conspiracy cases can be difficult to defend. To achieve the desired outcome, federal criminal lawyers need a thorough understanding of the evidence held by prosecutors. Conspiracy charges are typically brought about under 18 U.S.C. § 371, and they include a long list of potentially criminal offenses.
A federal conspiracy crime occurs when two or more people agree to commit a crime together, and at least one of them acts overtly to advance the conspiracy. In the federal criminal justice system, conspiracies are broad and confusing charges.
The prosecution doesn’t need a written agreement between the conspirators. It only needs to show that the conspirators were working together to commit a federal crime.
Under 8 U.S.C. § 371, it’s a crime to conspire with others to defraud the U.S. government and to break other federal laws. Essentially, conspiracy is a crime of agreement. Whether the goal of the conspiracy is achieved or not is another matter.
Criminal conspiracy statutes condemn joining with others to carry out illegal activities. These acts are considered so unlawful that merely talking with other people about committing them is considered a crime.
What makes the crime of conspiracy so perplexing is that it’s more focused on agreement and intention than on action.
It’s possible for someone to be charged with and prosecuted for criminal conspiracy even if no crime is committed. The act of planning the crime in and of itself is against the law. A conversation can be used against you to prove that a conspiracy has occurred, even if additional evidence is required.
According to federal conspiracy statute 18 U.S.C. § 371, a conspiracy occurs when two or more individuals agree to commit a federal crime, and at least one of the individuals commits an overt act to further the goal of the conspiracy. Federal law prohibits conspiracies to defraud the United States, impede or injure an officer or engage in violent crimes.
Under the overt act requirement and according to many conspiracy statutes, at least one of the conspirators must commit an action that advances the goal of the conspiracy. Under statutes that require an overt action, agreement alone is not sufficient.
Overt acts might include stockpiling rifles or scoping out a potential crime scene. If one conspirator commits an overt act, all other conspirators become guilty of the crime as well.
Penalties associated with conspiratorial crimes may greatly exceed the maximum five years of imprisonment. Conspiracy can be charged at both the state and federal levels as both a misdemeanor and a felony.
If a conviction occurs, the charges will determine the penalty. You could be charged with committing other crimes besides conspiracy. In that case, separate penalties are imposed for each crime. When state laws are broken in addition to federal laws, stiffer penalties are likely to apply.
Federal conspiracy is an easy crime to to commit, and people can commit conspiracy without even realizing it. Even worse, if one conspirator commits an overt action, then all the conspirators are equally guilty.
This is true even if they were not serious about committing a crime in the first place. Additionally, co-conspirators are responsible for future crimes committed by any conspirator that advance the agenda of the conspiracy.
Conspiracy laws are meant to discourage the formation of criminal cabals by making cabal members easy targets for prosecutors. They are specifically designed to discourage criminal enterprises.
If you have been charged with conspiracy, you still have important constitutional rights. You are entitled to legal representation, a fair and speedy trial, due process and protection against self-incrimination and unreasonable search and seizure.
An experienced federal criminal defense lawyer can assert your constitutional rights to suppress evidence or get the charges dismissed if federal prosecutors violate your rights.
Conspiracy is a crime of intention and agreement. If your lawyer creates reasonable doubt about your complicity, the prosecution must then prove that you clearly intended and agreed to commit a criminal act.
Mere association with a group of conspirators does not prove that you’re guilty of conspiracy, and it’s not legally a conspiracy if you listen to someone else discussing a potential crime.
Similarly, discussing the commission of a crime is not the same thing as agreeing to commit a crime. Rather, there must be clear agreement on your part to perform a criminal offense. Furthermore, the prosecutors must prove the commission of an overt action designed to further the goal of the conspiracy.
Ensuring that prosecutors prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt is what an experienced federal criminal conspiracy lawyer can do to ensure the most positive outcome of your case.
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