Skilled Defense Against Conspiracy Charges
The law of conspiracy is complicated. It is also a powerful tool for the prosecutor. It punishes an agreement by two or more persons to commit an unlawful act, provided that one of the people involved in the agreement does something overt (an “overt act”) in furtherance of the agreement. Stated slightly differently, Title 18, Section 371 of the United States Code, along with other federal statutes, makes it a separate Federal crime or offense for anyone to conspire or agree with someone else to do something which, if actually carried out, would amount to another Federal crime or offense. Under this law, a ‘conspiracy’ is an agreement or a kind of ‘partnership’ in criminal purposes in which each member becomes the agent or partner of every other member.
To establish a conspiracy the government does not have to prove that all of the people named in the indictment were members of the scheme; or that those who were members had entered into any formal type of agreement; or that the members had planned together all of the details of the scheme.
Also, because the essence of a conspiracy is the making of the agreement itself (followed by the commission of any overt act), it is not necessary for the Government to prove that the conspirators actually succeeded in accomplishing their unlawful plan.
So what then does the government have to prove in order to send someone to prison for a conspiracy? Generally speaking, the government must prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:
1. That two or more persons, in some way or manner, came to a mutual understanding to try to accomplish a common and unlawful plan, as charged in the indictment;
2. That the person willfully became a member of such conspiracy;
3. That one of the conspirators during the existence of the conspiracy knowingly committed at least one ‘overt act’; and
4. That such ‘overt act’ was knowingly committed in an effort to carry out or accomplish some object of the conspiracy.
An ‘overt act’ is any transaction or event, even one which may be entirely innocent when considered alone, but which is knowingly committed by a conspirator in an effort to accomplish some object of the conspiracy.
A person may become a member of a conspiracy without knowing all of the details of the unlawful scheme, and without knowing who all of the other members are. So, if a person has an understanding of the unlawful nature of a plan and knowingly and willfully joins in that plan on one occasion, that is sufficient to convict him for conspiracy even though he did not participate before, and even though he played only a minor part.
Mere presence at the scene of a transaction or event, or the mere fact that certain persons may have associated with each other, and may have assembled together and discussed common aims and interests, may not necessarily establish proof of a conspiracy. Also, a person who has no knowledge of a conspiracy, but who happens to act in a way which advances some purpose of one, does not thereby become a conspirator.
To defend against a conspiracy charge, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney. For a free consultation with the Law Office of John Freeman, contact us today.