Common Defenses to Charges of Criminal Conspiracy

Conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime. That is why you will often see conspiracy charges brought along with other criminal charges when more that one person is involved in a crime. However, a person can be charged with conspiracy even if the crime itself was never carried out.

In order to prove conspiracy, a prosecutor must show that a defendant entered into an agreement with one or more people to commit a crime. The agreement need not be explicit — most conspiracy crimes are by implicit agreement and proven by prosecutors using circumstantial evidence.

In general, one conspirator must commit an overt act in order to prove conspiracy. An overt act is one that furthers the conspiracy along. However, there are exceptions — for example, an overt act is not necessary to prove a conspiracy to engage in drug trafficking.

One of the most common examples of criminal conspiracy is when both conspirators are charged with the same crime, even though only one of them committed the actual crime. For example, two people plot to rob a liquor store and one stays outside in the car while the other actually commits the robbery. During the robbery, the storeowner attempts to call the police, so the robber shoots him. Both can be charged for the robbery and the shooting since the owner was shot to prevent the conspirators from being arrested.

The most common defenses to conspiracy include:

Abandonment — when a conspirator withdraws from the conspiracy well before any crime has been committed and communicates that withdrawal to his or her co-conspirators.

Impossibility — legal impossibility can be asserted when no crime would have occurred even if the goal of the conspiracy had been achieved. However, factual impossibility — the conspirators planned to steal money from the liquor store but there was no money in the cash register — is not a defense.

Conspiracy can be prosecuted at both the state and federal levels. In Texas, the punishment for conspiracy is generally the same as for the associated crime. A federal conspiracy conviction usually results in up to five years in prison, and is most commonly used for federal white collar and drug crimes.

The Cogdell Law Firm is a full service criminal litigation and appellate law firm. We provide client-focused representation at all stages of the process, whether our clients are seeking to avoid charges, have been charged, or are seeking reversal of a conviction on appeal. When results matter most, contact Dan Cogdell at (713) 426-2244 or dan@cogdell-law.com.

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