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What is the definition of a conspiracy?

By Robert G. Stahl Esq., NJ & NY Criminal Defense Lawyer posted in Federal Crimes on Friday, March 13, 2015

Any time that the alleged commission of an illegal act involves more than one person, it is possible if not likely that they will be charged with a criminal conspiracy. But what exactly is a conspiracy, and how do prosecutors attempt to prove it in court?

Consider an example of a bank robbery in which three people are involved: one to serve as lookout, another to drive the getaway car, and the third to gather the money. During the commission of the robbery, one of them fires a weapon and injures another person before all three are apprehended.

In this situation, federal prosecutors will be involved, because bank robbery is a federal crime. The prosecution will need to convince a jury, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the following existed:

  1. An agreement between two or more persons;
  2. To commit an unlawful act; and
  3. An overt act taken by at least one of them in furtherance of that agreement.

Some of the unique characteristics of conspiracy law include the following:

  • Any statement by one of the conspirators may be used as evidence against all of them.
  • All of the conspirators are considered to be equally guilty of any foreseeable crime that any one of them may be convicted of.
  • Conspiracy is considered to be an ongoing crime for statute of limitations purposes. That is, the applicable statute of limitations begins with the commission of the last overt act in its furtherance.

In our bank robbery example, if one of the three individuals made an incriminating statement, that statement could be used in court against all three, and if the person who was injured during the commission of the robbery dies then all three participants will be charged with homicide even though two of them never fired a shot.

Conspiracy charges, federal or at the New Jersey state level, can be complex to defend against as well as to prosecute. This post only provides an introductory examination of the topic. Anyone wanting to know more about this topic, or who may be facing conspiracy charges, should consult with a law firm experienced in criminal defense cases.

Tags: Federal Crimes

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