Section 53a-48(a) of our statutes provides as follows: “A person is guilty of conspiracy when, with intent that conduct constituting a crime be performed, he agrees with one or more persons to engage in or cause the performance of such conduct, and any one of them commits an overt act in pursuance of such conspiracy.”
There are three elements in the crime of conspiracy that the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt:
Conspiracy – Elements
The defendant had an intent that criminal conduct be performed.
The defendant made an agreement with one or more persons to engage in or cause the performance of that conduct.
There was the commission of an overt act in pursuance of the agreement, by any one or more of the persons who made the agreement.
The first element is that the defendant had the intent that conduct constituting a crime be performed. It is not necessary, however, that the defendant intended to commit a crime. It is only necessary that he intended that certain conduct, which if performed would constitute a crime, be performed or take place.
The second element is that the defendant, acting with that criminal intent, agreed with one or more persons to engage in or cause the performance of that conduct which constituted a crime. The agreement may have been explicit or expressed, or it may have been implicit or unexpressed. It need not have been a formal agreement, or an agreement in words or in writing. It is sufficient to show that the persons involved were knowingly engaged in a mutual plan to do a forbidden act. It is not necessary that the defendant knew the complete plan of the conspiracy in all its details. Nor is it necessary that he agreed with all the parties to the agreement. It is enough if he knew that an agreement existed or that he was creating an agreement; and that he joined with at least one other person into an agreement to commit the crime or cause it to be committed.
It is sufficient if the parties reached an understanding that they should work together with a single design for the attainment of a common purpose. A person does not become a member of a conspiracy simply because he knows that a group of persons have combined for unlawful purposes and does nothing about it.
The mere knowledge, acquiescence or approval of an unlawful act, without agreement, is not sufficient to make someone a party to a conspiracy. It requires more than proof of the defendant’s mere passive knowledge of a crime to sustain a charge of conspiracy.
The defendant must have had a guilty intent and knew that what he was doing was part of a general scheme to commit one or more of the unlawful acts alleged in the information.
Such an agreement may be proven by direct evidence—that is, by testimony of one of the conspirators about the agreement. Or it may also be shown by circumstantial evidence; for conspiracies by their very nature are formed in secret and only rarely can be proven by direct as opposed to circumstantial evidence. Thus, a conspiracy may also be proven by showing a sequence or combination of acts of such nature that they tend to show a mutual purpose. In a conspiracy, it may be that one act, taken by itself, may not tend to show an unlawful agreement. But when it is looked at in connection with other acts, the totality of the acts may be sufficient to show the unlawful agreement. Thus, an unlawful agreement may be proven by proof of separate acts by members of the conspiracy, and by proof of their surrounding circumstances, from which you may infer the existence of an illegal agreement.
The third element is that any one or more of the persons who were parties to the agreement committed an overt act in pursuance or in furtherance of the conspiracy. At least one of the conspirators must have done at least one overt act to further the purpose of the conspiracy. It makes no difference which one did the overt act. Nor is it necessary that the defendant himself committed the overt act; or that all of the conspirators did so. It is sufficient if any one or more of the persons who entered into the illegal agreement committed at least one overt act to further its purpose.
An overt act is an open act which manifests or shows that it is part of a design or intent. It must be something more than the mere act of agreeing. It must be something that goes beyond merely making preparations in a general way. It must be something done after the agreement has been formed, which furthers the purpose of the agreement. If it furthers the purpose of the illegal agreement, it makes no difference that the overt act itself may not be criminal. Of course, if the act itself is criminal that would be sufficient, but it is not necessary that the act taken by itself be criminal.
The crime of conspiracy is similar to that of intent and attempt in that, if a defendant is convicted of conspiracy, the penalty will be the same as that of the underlying crime. A conspiracy is defined as “an agreement by two or more persons to commit an unlawful act, coupled with an intent to achieve the agreement’s objective, and action or conduct that furthers the agreement; a combination for an unlawful purpose. Conspiracy is a separate offense from the crime that is the object of the conspiracy. A conspiracy ends when the unlawful act has been committed or when the agreement has been abandoned.” Blacks Law Dictionary 8th ed. 2004.
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-48 explains what constitutes conspiracy under Connecticut law:
Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53a-48. Conspiracy. Renunciation.
(a) A person is guilty of conspiracy when, with intent that conduct constituting a crime be performed, he agrees with one or more persons to engage in or cause the performance of such conduct, and any one of them commits an overt act in pursuance of such conspiracy.
(b) It shall be a defense to a charge of conspiracy that the actor, after conspiring to commit a crime, thwarted the success of the conspiracy, under circumstances manifesting a complete and voluntary renunciation of his criminal purpose.
To establish the crime of conspiracy under § 53a-48 of the General Statutes, the state must show that there was an agreement between two or more persons to engage in conduct constituting a crime and that the agreement was followed by an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy by any one of the conspirators. The state must also show that the defendant intended for a person in the conspiracy to perform a criminal act. The state does not need to prove the existence of a formal agreement, it is sufficient to show that they are “knowingly engaged in a mutual plan to do a forbidden act.” State v. Holmes, 160 Conn. 140, 149 (1970). A conviction of the crime of conspiracy can be based on circumstantial evidence, for conspiracies, by their very nature, are formed in secret and only rarely can be proved otherwise than circumstantial evidence.
The crime of conspiracy is a separate crime from the crime that is the object of the conspiracy. The crime of conspiracy consists essentially of an agreement to perform conduct which itself is criminal, followed by one or more overt acts in pursuance of that agreement.