Criminal conspiracy may sound like a well-orchestrated operation involving many participants, but conspiracy charges often relate to much smaller and less sophisticated operations. As described in more detail below, it only takes two people to agree to commit a crime and at least one person to take a step towards carrying out the conspiracy agreement.
As criminal defense attorneys at Vinas & Graham, PLLC, know, conspiracy charges are often based on loose facts and circumstantial evidence. Unfortunately, conspiracy charges can come with severe punishments, especially when charged as felonies and in federal court. If you are facing criminal conspiracy charges, contact our office to schedule a consultation. You need an attorney to defend your rights and freedom.
What Is Criminal Conspiracy?
For a conspiracy conviction, prosecutors will attempt to prove that you and one or more other people agreed to commit a crime, and at least one of the conspirators followed through with an overt act towards carrying out the conspiracy. Even if you only agreed to carry out a crime and you take no further action, you may be convicted of conspiracy when someone else takes a step to further an objective of the conspiracy.
Conspiracy is a crime in and of itself, and it is separate from the underlying crime that you conspired to commit. Even if the crime is never carried out, you may still be charged with conspiracy when all of the conspiracy elements are satisfied. For example, if you conspire with another person to rob a bank and one of you buys a mask for the robbery, buying a mask satisfies the overt act element, and you can be charged with conspiracy.
Not only can you be charged with conspiracy, but in some cases, you can also be charged for the underlying crime, even if you did not participate in carrying out the crime. If you decided not to participate in the crime, but your co-conspirators went through with the plan anyway, you may still be convicted of the crime unless you actively withdrew from the conspiracy.
State Or Federal Crime
Criminal conspiracy can be charged as a state or federal crime. It can also be charged as a felony or misdemeanor. To charge conspiracy in Texas, two or more people must agree to commit a felony crime. Under federal law, however, two or more people must agree to commit a crime, but that crime does not necessarily have to be a felony.
Penalties For Criminal Conspiracy Convictions
Penalties for criminal conspiracy convictions vary widely, depending on the circumstances of each case. For less serious offenses such as a state misdemeanor conspiracy conviction, defendants may be incarcerated for less than one year up to three years.
Punishments are more severe for felony crimes and for federal criminal convictions. If convicted for these more serious charges, you may spend 20 years or more in prison. It is also important to remember, as mentioned above, conspiracy is a crime in and of itself. If you are convicted of other crimes in addition to conspiracy, you will be looking at multiple prison sentences.
Conspiracy To Commit Murder Or Other Specific Felony Crimes
Conspiracy to commit murder is a very serious charge, and convictions can lead to long prison sentences, even if the murder was never carried out. Additionally, Texas law provides that defendants can be charged with murder when someone dies during the commission of certain felony crimes. For example, if someone dies while conspirators are carrying out the crime of rape, kidnapping, arson, robbery, carjacking, or other specified crimes, the conspirators can be charged with homicide.
Criminal Conspiracy Defenses
Common defenses to criminal conspiracy charges include the following:
- The defendant was not a party to the conspiracy.
- There was no overt act carried out to further the conspiracy.
- The defendant did not know that the agreed-upon act was a crime.
- The defendant’s constitutional rights were violated. For example, you may argue that the prosecutor’s evidence cannot be used against you because it was illegally obtained, or you weren’t given Miranda warnings before you made a confession.
Criminal Conspiracy Attorney
If you have been charged with criminal conspiracy, contact a criminal defense attorney at Vinas & Graham, PLLC. Our attorneys know conspiracy law, they will provide you with an aggressive defense strategy, and they will fight to protect your freedom. Criminal conspiracy charges can be scary and overwhelming, but our attorneys will fight to secure the best possible outcome for your case.