What Does a Conspiracy Charge Mean?
Conspiracy is a very general crime that is often difficult to understand. Typically, it involves two or more people who agree to commit a crime and at least one of them having done something toward executing the criminal act.
What’s confusing is that there doesn’t have to be any illegal action, written agreement between the people involved, or any other explicit interaction between them. All that’s needed for prosecutors to charge you with conspiracy is evidence that you were working with someone in some way to commit a crime sometime in the future.
Another confusing element is that you can be charged under state law, but if any interstate activity or federal law is involved, your case can easily get sent up to federal court, where the sentencing is usually much harsher. Moreover, because conspiracy is such a loosely defined crime, you can be charged with this federal offense even though you were only slightly involved with the alleged criminal act. Federal prosecutors can decide to use conspiracy charges as a way to gather evidence on others for different crimes, such as drug trafficking or fraud, and you can get caught in the crosshairs.
Federal Conspiracy Statutes
The federal conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. § 371, makes it illegal to conspire to defraud the United States or any U.S. agency and to conspire to break any federal law. Accordingly, a conspiracy occurs whenever two or more people agree to commit a federal crime and at least one of those people takes some overt action toward enacting the crime.
Other specific federal conspiracy laws target controlled substances and robberies. For example, 21 U.S.C. § 846 makes it illegal to conspire to manufacture, distribute, or process with intent to distribute controlled substances, and 18 U.S.C. § 1951 prohibits robbery of anything involved in interstate commerce and/or conspiring to commit such a robbery.
Prosecutors and Conspiracy Charges
Prosecutors only have to show you had an agreement with someone to commit a federal crime in order to prosecute you on federal conspiracy charges. The government doesn’t have to prove you had a written agreement or that you met the person or people with whom you had the agreement.
This broad nature of conspiracy charges can lead to situations where people are held responsible for acts of which they had very little knowledge or involvement. For example, someone could be charged with conspiracy for merely discussing a potential robbery situation with someone else or prosecuted on conspiracy charges even if they were a very minor player in a drug case. In either case, if convicted, you could end up with a lengthy prison sentence.
Defending Against Conspiracy Charges
To defend against conspiracy charges, you need an experienced federal defense attorney who understands how government prosecutors work and can delve into the details of your case to develop an aggressive, strategic defense.
Depending on the specific facts of your case, it’s possible to show you wanted to abandon the conspiracy, had communicated your intention to others involved, and had taken some effort toward withdrawing. Other defenses are all possible, but the main thing to keep in mind if you are charged with conspiracy is that you need a good federal defense attorney to fight for your rights and protect your future.
Dan Eckhart has tried a number of cases in federal court as both a prosecutor and defense lawyer. He has gotten favorable results at trial by aggressively challenging the government and he will do everything he can to protect your rights and liberty.
Attorney Dan Eckhart will leverage his experience as a federal prosecutor to help build the strongest strategic defense possible and fight relentlessly to obtain the best possible outcome for your future.