It is crucial to have legal representation on your side if you are accused of conspiring to commit a crime. The defenses are more complex than other crimes, and the stakes are much higher. Most jurisdictions require at least one conspiracy member to take an overt act to further the illegal objective. Mere association with a criminal does not constitute participation.
While conspiracy charges are serious, they can be difficult to defend. Collaborating with a lawyer for conspiracy to commit a crime and being familiar with how to approach the case is crucial. Conspiracy cases often revolve around communications between conspirators. It’s not uncommon for government prosecutors to use phone records, emails, or text messages between defendants as evidence of an agreement to commit a crime. It’s also important to remember that an individual is derivatively liable for any illegal act committed in furtherance of the conspiracy by other participants in the scheme. It’s important for those charged with conspiracy to take action to refute any allegations and cut off communication with co-conspirators. Sometimes, a defendant can raise the affirmative defense of withdrawing from a conspiracy charge. However, to do so, the defendant must show that he affirmatively communicated his withdrawal to his co-conspirators and took positive action to withdraw from the conspiracy.
A conspirator’s intent is crucial. A conspiracy does not have to be a formal agreement, but at least one participant must take some action toward carrying out the crime. For example, a group of drunk friends may discuss their plans to rob a bank, but unless they do anything – such as renting a vehicle to use in the crime – they would not be charged with a conspiracy. It is also important that the alleged conspirators share a common purpose. The court can not convict two alleged conspirators who have different meanings. For instance, Kyle and Sue both agree to kill Charlie but have very different motives. Sue believes they will scare him, while Kyle thinks it is a good way to get revenge. A co-conspirator’s overt act does not need to be unlawful, but it must be in furtherance of the conspiracy. For instance, a person renting a vehicle for a bank robbery is committing an overt act because it helps the crime.
In conspiracy cases, prosecutors must show that the accused parties agreed to commit a federal crime. Then, at least one accused performed an overt act that furthered this agreement. This requirement prevents people from getting thrown in jail just for discussing or agreeing to commit a criminal act without doing anything illegal. For example, suppose three drunken friends discuss robbing a bank together. In that case, it’s unlikely they would get charged with conspiracy because they have yet to take concrete steps toward committing the crime.
Nevertheless, some federal conspiracy statutes don’t require an overt act, such as drug trafficking and fraud conspiracies under 18 U.S.C. S.S. 1961 and SS 1349, respectively. Moreover, federal law allows an individual to withdraw from a scheme. Once he does, he can’t be held liable for any reasonably foreseeable criminal acts committed by co-conspirators who were members when he joined the conspiracy.
In conspiracy cases, the prosecution will often use circumstantial evidence. It’s because circumstantial evidence, unlike direct evidence, depends on assumptions to link it to a judgment of fact. For instance, evidence such as the purchase of tools to dispose of a body can be sufficient to convict someone of conspiracy. However, the prosecution must present this evidence alongside other circumstantial proof to support the requirements for a conspiracy conviction: agreement and commission of an overt act. Overt acts are any actions that further the purpose of the alleged conspiracy. They do not have to be unlawful in any way, and they don’t need to achieve the objective of the suspected scheme fully. For example, if Hank and his two companions plan to rob a jewelry store, Walter’s shooting of the owner during the robbery would be an overt act supporting a conspiracy conviction.