What is conspiracy?
Conspiracy is a federal crime that is related to another crime but is also an independent basis for criminal liability. A conspiracy forms once certain criteria are met:
- There is an agreement between two or more people to commit a criminal act.
- At least one conspirator commits an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.
It is important to note that the “overt act” need not itself be illegal. For instance, when two people agree to start a meth lab and one begins to purchase or acquire some of the necessary equipment, they have already entered a federal drug conspiracy, even if they purchased the equipment and supplies legally. This can potentially expose suppliers, property owners and other indirectly involved individuals to significant criminal liability if investigators and prosecutors believe they knew of the criminal conspiracy and agreed to participate in it.
Consequences for involvement in a conspiracy
An accusation that you are a member of a federal drug conspiracy has significant ramifications. First of all, members of a conspiracy are subject to the same criminal penalties that apply to the crime they intended to commit, even if they did not actually complete the crime. Second, current members of a conspiracy may also be responsible for the criminal acts of other conspiracy members if they were foreseeable and done in furtherance of the conspiracy. For instance, if a single member of a conspiracy kills a night watchman while robbing a chemical warehouse to acquire drug manufacturing supplies, the other members of the conspiracy could potentially face murder charges even if they were not present and did not authorize the act. Third, property used in any aspect of the conspiracy may be subject to asset forfeiture upon conviction. Participants in large or lengthy conspiracies may also be subject to enhanced penalties as part of a continuing criminal enterprise.
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