If a group of people has collectively made plans in an effort to commit a crime or crimes, the individuals of that group can get charged with conspiracy. The intended crime doesn’t actually have to take place for those involved to get charged of conspiracy. You may get charged with conspiracy to commit a felony or conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor. This depends on the crime that you conspired to commit.
Elements of Conspiracy
There are two essential elements of conspiracy. The first states that multiple parties must agree to commit a crime or engage in illegal activity. This agreement does not have to appear in writing or even specifically stated. It simply has to get implied that the parties involved have made an agreement to commit a crime. The second element of conspiracy states that the parties have legitimate intent to follow through on their agreement. The prosecution will have to prove that there was legitimate intent to carry out the crime. Also, they have to prove that it was not just a joke. Some jurisdictions actually require a third element in order to prove conspiracy. This element is that one or both parties involved in the conspiracy take some kind of action to further the conspiracy and plan for the crime to be committed.
It is important to note that the charge of conspiracy can be issued in addition to a charge for the specific crime that was the objective of the plan. This means that you can get charged twice for actions related to the same crime – once for the intent, and once for the action execution of a crime. Sometimes, the conspiracy gets charged under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization law (RICO law). The RICO law started to attack and prevent organized crime, but the law can apply to any formal or informal organization. If convicted under the RICO law, you face criminal and civil penalties. Both prosecutors and private individuals can bring charges against you for your involvement in organized crime.
One of the most common defenses of conspiracy comes from the acquittal of the other parties involved. If the other person or people involved in the conspiracy are acquitted of charges, you can make the argument that the conspiracy never took place and you as well should be acquitted of conspiracy. Another argument can be that you deliberately took action in order to prevent the crime that you conspired to commit. If, for example, you changed your mind and told the other parties involved in the conspiracy not to commit the crime, you can be acquitted of conspiracy, even if the crime was carried out by the other parties involved.
It is important to keep in mind that defenses to crimes such as conspiracy will depend on your individual situation. You should discuss your case with a criminal defense lawyer before determining the best defense for you.