Conspiracy is one of the most complex and confusing federal criminal charges. It is also challenging for the federal government to prove because they have to prove not only that a conspiracy existed, but also that you intentionally conspired to commit a crime. By definition, it is an agreement between two or more parties to commit a crime. In most cases, a conspiracy charge requires the government to present evidence of an overt act that a party committed to further their planned crime in order to prove intent.
It Takes Two To Conspire
Usually, conspiracy charges are indicted along with other charges for the underlying crimes that constitute the subject of the conspiracy. The prosecution must charge two or more defendants for a conspiracy charge to stick — otherwise, the conspiracy may be subject to an entrapment defense.
Other defenses to a conspiracy charge include withdrawal from the conspiracy before any overt act takes place, mere presence at the scene of a criminal act, and lack of knowledge of the conspiracy's objectives. However, there is no requirement that a defendant know of every objective of the conspiracy. A showing of willful blindness - taking deliberate actions to avoid confirming suspicions of criminality - is enough for a conviction.
Conspiracy charges often hinge on a cooperating witness, and the prosecution puts tremendous effort into making their case. But membership in a conspiracy must be proved on the basis of the defendant's own words and actions and not on the basis of mere association or knowledge of wrongdoing.
Creating a strong defense for a federal conspiracy charge requires knowledge of the law and experience in federal criminal cases. Ann Fitz has successfully defended clients against conspiracy charges in the past and can help you with your case. Call us at 561-932-1690 to schedule your initial consultation or you can also use the contact form.
The Importance of Overt Acts
An overt act is any statement or act that is knowingly done by one or more of the conspirators in an effort to accomplish a purpose of the conspiracy; it need not be in violation of the law or be a crime itself. However, proof of an overt act is a necessary element of the crime of Conspiracy under 18 U.S.C. § 371. An overt act done in furtherance of a conspiratorial agreement demonstrates that the conspirators have actually taken a step towards making the agreement a reality. The overt act MUST come after the agreement of the conspirators has been made. Once the overt act occurs, the crime of Conspiracy is considered “complete.”