Conspiracy Crime | New York Criminal Defense Lawyer
A conspiracy charge is one of the most common criminal charges. Prosecutors often tack conspiracy onto another criminal charge such as a drug offense or fraud charge. While a conspiracy charge is very common, it is also frequently misunderstood. As a result, if you have been charged with conspiracy, it is important that you work with a New York criminal defense lawyer.
Definition of Conspiracy
A New York criminal defense lawyer will advise that to prove a criminal conspiracy, prosecutors generally must prove three elements. First, a prosecutor will have to show that there is an agreement between two or more people to commit an unlawful act. Second, the participants must be knowing participants in the conspiracy. Third, the participants to the conspiracy must take some act toward the completion of the criminal act.
Those charged with conspiracy should know that they could face convictions for both the conspiracy as well as the underlying criminal act that they were pursuing. The following is a closer look at the three elements of a conspiracy charge:
- Agreement Between Two or More Persons. The key to a conspiracy charge is that it is a form of criminal partnership between two or more people to commit an unlawful act. A criminal lawyer New York can explain to you that with a conspiracy, it is the agreement to commit an illegal act that is itself illegal. Whether the underlying crime was ever committed is irrelevant. For example, if John and Henry knowingly plan and scheme to rob a bank and take an overt act toward the commission of the crime, they may be guilty of the crime of conspiracy regardless of whether they actually rob the bank. Therefore, they may be guilty of a crime even if they never rob the bank.
- Knowledge and Intent. As with most criminal charges, prosecutors must prove that the participants to the conspiracy had the knowledge and intent to enter into the criminal act. A prosecutor will not have to show that you had the intent to injure a specific person. However, the prosecutor will have to show that you had the general intent to engage in a criminal act. For example, if you join a group that is considering committing some act of fraud, you must have the reasonable knowledge that the group is conspiring to engage in an act that is illegal.
- Overt Act. A key element of a conspiracy charge that is usually overlooked is that the participants must take some overt act toward the commission of the crime. So a group of people simply thinking about a crime may not be enough to support conviction. Instead, prosecutors must also show that at least one of the conspirators took an overt act in furtherance of the crime. For example, if a group of would-be bank robbers simply sit around someone’s kitchen table discussing the bank robbery, they likely are not guilty of a crime. However, if the group scopes out the crime scene and draws a map of the bank, the scoping out and drawing out of the plan may constitute an overt act toward the commission of the crime supporting conviction.
Defenses to a Conspiracy Charge
A conspiracy charge involves a lot of moving parts. It can be difficult to prove that two or more people shared the same intent and knowledge to commit a crime. It can also be difficult to show that an agreement existed, according to a New York criminal defense lawyer. Some common defenses to the crime of conspiracy include:
- Lack of Agreement. Prosecutors do not have to show that the parties had a formal written agreement to commit a crime. However, they do need to show that an agreement existed. Your criminal defense attorney may help you argue that while you had met several people to discuss a common topic, there was never a plan to commit a crime or an agreement on how the crime would be committed.
- Abandonment or Withdrawal. Even if there is an agreement to commit a crime, one of the parties to the conspiracy may still abandon the crime or withdraw from the act to avoid criminal prosecution. Generally, the defendant must abandon the crime or withdraw before the conspirators take an overt act toward the commission of the crime. Once the overt act is taken, it may be too late to withdraw. However, before that overt act is taken, a defendant can demonstrate abandonment or withdrawal such as by communicating the abandonment to other co-conspirators and taking the abandoning act in a timely fashion before the commission of the crime. The burden will be on the defendant to prove withdrawal or abandonment. You should be aware that a passive non-participation from the crime may not be enough to support abandonment.
Penalties to a Conspiracy Charge
The penalties for a conspiracy charge vary wildly and can be very severe. The reason for the variation in penalties is that someone convicted of conspiracy faces the same punishment as the underlying crime. If the conspiracy is to rob a bank, you face the penalties for the robbery. Similarly, if the underlying crime is murder, you could face the penalties for murder. An experienced New York criminal defense lawyer advises that expert counsel is necessary in order to help minimize the damage.
In addition, you should be aware that all members of the conspiracy face the same criminal penalties. If there is a conspiracy to commit murder, the conspirer who plans the crime can face the same penalties as the person who actually pulls the trigger. The reasoning behind this is that prosecutors will not bear the burden of trying to untangle the conspiracy and lay blame based on the roles of each conspirator.
Contact a New York Criminal Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with the crime of conspiracy, you will want to work with an experienced New York criminal defense attorney. Discuss the specifics of your case and learn your options by calling criminal defense attorney Frederick L. Sosinsky at (212) 285-2270.