What is Conspiracy?
Under 18 U.S.C. § 371, conspiracy is defined as when two or more persons conspire either to commit an offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States or a government agency, and one or more of such persons commits an act to effect the object of the conspiracy.
Elements to a Conspiracy Charge
There are four elements to a conspiracy charge, and the prosecution has to prove each of these elements beyond a reasonable doubt to secure a conviction. The four elements are:
- Agreement between at least two parties to commit an offense against or to defraud the United States;
- Defendant was party to such agreement;
- Intent to enter into the agreement and to achieve the unlawful object of the agreement; and
- An overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy by at least one party involved in the conspiracy.
Penalties for Conspiracy
The conspiracy statute provides that, for a felony offense, a maximum punishment of five (5) years imprisonment and a fine not more than $250,000 may be imposed. In the case of conspiracy by an organization, a fine not more than $500,000 may be imposed.
Potential Defenses for Conspiracy Charges
Criminal liability may be limited if the defendant completely withdrew from the conspiracy before any overt act was committed.
The defendant has the burden of proof to show that: (1) he/she completely withdrew; (2) he/she took affirmative steps to renounce or defeat the purpose of the conspiracy; and (3) the withdrawal occurred before any overt act was committed. If defendant faces a conspiracy charge that does not require an overt act, the withdrawal defense is likely inapplicable.
Violation of Constitutional Rights
Defendants to criminal proceedings have certain constitutional rights (e.g., right to counsel, right against self-incrimination, right to a fair and speedy trial), and a federal conspiracy attorney will argue for suppression of evidence and dismissal of charges when these constitutional rights have been violated.
Creating Reasonable Doubt
The burden is on the government to prove each and every element of any charged crimes beyond a reasonable doubt. In making certain that the government is held to this standard of proof and, the legal team at Leaf Legal, P.C. will mount a vigorous attack on the prosecution's theory of the case.
Underlying Prohibited Conduct or Crime
Conspiracy is one three common inchoate, or incomplete, offenses: attempt, conspiracy, and solicitation. To be charged with conspiracy is to be charged with trying to commit another crime.
We have frequently succeeded in arguing that a conspiracy count should be dismissed, as it often overlaps with attempt and solicitation, and frequently with completion of the offense that was the aim of the agreement. This is no small win should there be a trial, in light of the 'co-conspirator hearsay exception', which allows otherwise inadmissible hearsay to come into evidence.
Conspiracy Offense encapsulated within 21 U.S.C. § 846
21 U.S.C. § 846 Prohibits attempts and conspiracies to manufacture, distribute or possess with intent to distribute controlled substances. The penalty structures for these and other drug crimes are set out in 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(b) and 960(b). The minimum and maximum statutory penalties are driven by the type and the quantity of the drug involved, but may be increased if the offense involved death or serious bodily injury, or if the offender has a prior conviction for a felony drug offense.
This is one of several federal statutes which prohibits a specific conspiracy and has the potential to result in punishment far more severe than 18 U.S.C. § 371.
CONTACT LEAF LEGAL, P.C. TODAY
If you or your company is being investigated or charged with conspiracy, our team can provide you with the zealous representation that you deserve. If you are facing federal conspiracy charges in the SDNY, EDNY, or anywhere else in the United States, contact Leaf Legal today online or at 212-933-9420 to request a consultation or return call from one of our experienced attorneys.