What Happens If You’re Charged With Federal Conspiracy?
Getting charged with any crime can be scary and overwhelming. But when the charge involves something called “conspiracy” and it’s at the federal level, it can feel especially confusing and intimidating. This article will break down what federal conspiracy is, what happens when you’re charged, and what your options are.
What is Federal Conspiracy?
- There was an agreement between 2 or more people to commit a federal crime
- The defendant intentionally joined in the agreement
- One of the conspirators committed an overt act to further the conspiracy
The crime doesn’t have to be successful for it to be considered conspiracy—the agreement itself is illegal. Some common examples of federal conspiracy charges include:
- Conspiracy to commit fraud against a government agency
- Conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs
- Conspiracy to commit cybercrimes against the government
Conspiracy charges are popular with federal prosecutors because they allow a wider range of evidence to be presented at trial. They also mean accomplices can face the same penalties as the main perpetrators.
What Happens When You’re Charged?
If federal agents believe you’re involved in a conspiracy, they’ll likely want to question you. Never talk to them without a lawyer present – anything you say can be used against you.
If formal charges are filed, you’ll receive a document called an indictment outlining the specific allegations. Your first court appearance will be an arraignment, where you enter a plea of guilty or not guilty.
After that, your lawyer will start building your defense strategy. This involves examining the prosecution’s evidence, looking for procedural mistakes or civil rights violations, and preparing arguments to undermine their case.
Your attorney may also negotiate with the prosecutor for a plea deal to reduce your charges or sentence. But you should never accept a deal before understanding the evidence and options.
What Are the Penalties for Federal Conspiracy?
For general conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. § 371, the maximum sentence is 5 years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine. If the object of the conspiracy was a misdemeanor, the penalty can’t exceed the max for that misdemeanor.
For other conspiracy statutes, the penalty is usually the same as if you completed the underlying crime. So conspiracy to commit robbery carries the same sentence as robbery. Mandatory minimums may also apply.
In addition to incarceration, federal convictions can result in heavy fines, restitution, and probation or supervised release. There are also long-term consequences like losing voting rights and ineligibility for federal benefits.