Charged With Conspiracy In CaliforniaConspiracy is a serious offense. Like an attempt of a crime, conspiracy is an inchoate offense. Inchoate offense is legalese for an unformed or undeveloped crime. In other words, you can be found guilty of conspiring to commit a crime or attempting to commit the crime without actually completing it. For an attempt, the person would have had to do a direct act in furtherance of completing the crime, but a conspiracy can take place before any attempt. It is often used for suspected organized crime.
A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime. The prosecution must prove the following elements:
There must be an agreement between the parties to commit a crime. However, the agreement doesn’t have to be anything formal, and it can be inferred from the actions of the conspirators.
2. Two or More Parties
This agreement must involve at least two people. You can’t conspire to commit a crime by yourself.
3. Intent to Commit a Crime
The parties must intend to enter into the agreement and intend to commit the crime.
4. Overt Act
The overt act must be committed by at least one of the members of the conspiracy. For California law to apply, it must have been committed in California. Moreover, the act must be made in furtherance of the conspiracy – in other words, it helps to get the members of the conspiracy closer to completing the crime. The act itself can be anything, like buying weapons or surveillance equipment to commit the act.
The crime does not have to be completed for you to be charged with conspiracy. And if the crime was completed, the suspects can be charged with both the crime and conspiracy. Conspiracy can be a felony or a misdemeanor.
Here are two examples of conspiracy:
Example 1: A woman and a man discuss killing her husband and running away with the life insurance money. The woman books tickets out of the country and locates a public place for her to be at the time of killing. The man goes out and buys a gun and cleaning supplies to clean up after he shoots the husband. Through their actions, they both agreed to kill the woman’s husband and thereby intended to commit the crime of murder. There are of course two people involved, and any of their acts, like booking the tickets or buying the gun, could be considered overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy to commit murder.
Example 2: Three men talk about burglarizing an elderly man’s house when he is out of town because he has expensive antiques. One man goes out and buys all the tools needed to break into a house. They all rent out motel rooms close to the man’s house. Again, from their actions, it seems that the three men made an agreement to burglarize the elderly man’s house. There are three persons involved, and renting the motel rooms and buying the tools could each be seen as overt acts demonstrating a conspiracy to commit burglary.
Types Of Conspiracies
California law sets out different categories of conspiracies:
- Conspiracy to commit any crime
- Conspiracy to falsely get someone else arrested for any crime
- Conspiracy to falsely bring or maintain any suit, action or proceeding
- Conspiracy to cheat and defraud someone of property or obtain money or property under false pretenses
- Conspiracy to commit an act injurious to public health, public morals, or to obstruct justice
- Conspiracy to commit any crime against the President or Vice President of the United States, the Governor of any state or territory, any United States justice or judge, or the secretary of any of the executive departments of the United States.
The penalty for conspiracy to commit a felony is the same as the penalty the felony carries. However, a conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor can be charged as either a felony or a misdemeanor. It is important to be aware that a conspirator is liable not just for crimes they themselves committed, but also the crimes of their co-conspirators.
- When a person conspires to commit a crime against a federal or state official, it is considered a felony, punishable by imprisonment for 5, 7, or 9 years.
- When they conspire to commit any other felony, the penalty is the same as the penalty for that felony.
- If the conspiracy is to commit two or more felonies and those felonies have different punishments, the penalty imposed is for the felony with the greater sentence.
- If the conspiracy is to cheat or defraud someone, the penalty is imprisonment in the county jail not more than one year, or by a fine not exceeding $10,000 or both.
- For any other conspiracy listed in Penal Code 182, the penalty is imprisonment in county jail up to one year, or a fine up to $10,000, or both.
- For conviction of conspiracy to commit identity fraud, the penalty is a fine up to $25,000.
Defenses To Fight Your Conspiracy Charge
To defeat a charge of conspiracy, a defendant can show that the prosecution has failed to meet one or more elements of the crime. If the prosecution cannot prove all the elements of the crime, the charge of conspiracy cannot stand. Common defenses to the crime of conspiracy include:
- Withdrawal – If someone can prove that they withdrew from the conspiracy, that can serve as a defense. However, the member who withdraws must announce it to the other members before the overt act is completed. It is not enough that the person just stops showing up or stops participating.
- No agreement – If a defendant can prove that no agreement existed between the alleged co-conspirators, there can’t be a conspiracy.
- No intent – If there was no intent to join the agreement and commit the crime, then there is no conspiracy. For example, suppose a man and his colleagues talk about killing their boss. The man thinks everybody is joking, but the following week, their boss is murdered. The man cannot be found guilty of conspiracy to murder because he did not intend to commit the crime.
- No overt act – Another defense is to show that no overt act existed, or that the act alleged to be the overt act did not aid in furthering the crime.
California Conspiracy Lawyers
If you are charged with conspiracy or other criminal offenses in California, promptly retain a criminal defense lawyer. My Rights Law – Criminal & DUI Attorneys is centered on defending those in California who have been criminally charged. Our experienced criminal defense lawyers are here for you and will help to make sure that your rights are protected. We are ready to fight the charges on your behalf, and know how to harness powerful, effective defensive strategies that could make all the difference in your criminal case. So, if you have a run-in with the law, then call My Rights Law at (888) 702-8882 or contact us online for a free consultation.