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Matthew A. Radefeld and Daniel A. Juengel

What is criminal conspiracy?

On Behalf of | Apr 26, 2019 | Criminal Law |

The word “conspiracy” is often convoluted with various meanings and contexts. That is why it is vital to understand what it means in terms of a crime instead of how it may relate to politics or a cover-up. A criminal conspiracy is often charged as a federal offense that can put someone behind bars for a significant period of time, depending on the underlying offense. 

A criminal conspiracy refers to at least two people agreeing to commit a crime and acting to complete it. Conspirators can receive penalties even if they do not end up committing the actual offense. Here are some important elements of a criminal conspiracy

An agreement

In order for people to be convicted of conspiracy, there must be evidence of an agreement to commit the crime. Individuals may make such an agreement formally or imply it from circumstances. For example, the prosecutor does not necessarily need to find proof of someone saying, “I agree to commit this crime with you.” If two conspirators simply meet and plan the crime, this may be sufficient evidence of an agreement. 


Another vital aspect of a conspiracy is the intention of the alleged conspirators. In order to be guilty, the individuals must have the intent to agree and achieve the outcome. Mere association with someone involved in a crime does not make you a conspirator. 

Overt act

Most jurisdictions require at least one of the conspirators to take a concrete step to bring the plan to fruition. For example, if there is an agreement to rob a bank, an overt act may be to rent a car to use as a getaway car. This requirement helps people avoid punishment for simply discussing a crime. For example, if two speculate about how they would rob a bank, but no one actually takes action to make it a reality, it is unlikely there would be conspiracy convictions.

A federal conspiracy offense can be applied to drug cases, robbery offenses or any federal crime that meets the criteria above. These matters can be complicated and carry with them stiff prison sentences. If you or someone you know finds themselves in a situation wherein federal prosecutors have charged them with a criminal conspiracy, it is vitally important to get experienced attorneys involved immediately.