In parts 1 and 2 of this series we discussed inchoate crimes and, specifically, the crime of attempt. In this post we discuss another inchoate crime – conspiracy.
A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit one or more criminal acts. The heart of the crime of conspiracy is an agreement between a group of people. It is important to note that an express agreement is not required, nor is a physical indication of an agreement, such as a head nod or some verbal exchange. Rather, what is needed is either a spoken or unspoken understanding by the parties that they will proceed toward committing the one or more criminal acts.
Not every party to the conspiracy needs to know every detail of the arrangement, so long as the parties to the conspiracy know the essential nature of the agreement. Additionally, a party to the conspiracy need not agree to commit every part of the target offense, so long as the party agrees to commit some act leading to the substantive crime.
Proving a Conspiracy
As you may imagine, proving a conspiracy can be difficult because it is hard to establish what parties to a conspiracy understood, believed, and thought. For this reason, courts have permitted evidence of a conspiracy to be established directly or through entirely circumstantial evidence. Thus, courts permit broad inferences to be drawn from acts, conduct, and circumstances surrounding an individual. In many instances, a crime committed as the result of a prior agreement is likely to look like the result of criminal conspiracy.
Conspiracy Differs From Criminal Attempt
Like criminal attempt, conspiracy is an inchoate crime – a crime that has begun but has not been completed. Unlike criminal attempt, however, conspiracy does not require the perpetrator to take substantial acts toward the completion of the target crime. Conspiracy is largely mental in composition because it primarily entails a “meeting of the minds” from those who are conspiring. Some states do require that some overt act be committed in furtherance of the conspiracy, however, any act – no matter how small – can satisfy this requirement, so long as the act is done with the intent of furthering the commission of the crime.
Defense to the Crime of Conspiracy
Although a party may conspire to commit a crime, the party may, nonetheless, take actions that absolve him or her of criminal liability. If a party, after conspiring with one or more people to commit an offense, persuades those people not to commit the offense, or otherwise prevents the offense from being committed, he or she shall not be guilty of the crime of conspiracy.
Conspiracy charges are frequently used against residents who themselves genuinely did not believe they were committing any crime at all. This is a very nuanced area of the law, and so it is critical to have the help of an experienced Orlando criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights. Our legal team at Moses and Rooth is here to help. Contact us today to share your story and learn more.