Title: How Do Federal Conspiracy Charges Work?
Description:Criminal defense attorney Barton Morris defines federal conspiracy charges and explains why those charges are so common in the U.S. criminal justice system.
How do federal conspiracy charges work?
Federal conspiracy charges are one of the most commonly charged crime in the federal system. The reason is because it is sometimes a lot easier for federal prosecutors to prove these charges. A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime and then to actually go out and do something in furtherance of that crime. The actual crime need not be committed.
Federal prosecutors like conspiracy offenses because the penalties are the same as if the crime was actually committed. All they would need to do is prove that there was an agreement to engage in a criminal act or defraud the government in some way, followed by an overt act to effectuate that crime. The theory behind it is that when two or more people actually make an agreement to do something unlawful, it makes it more likely that that’s going to happen, as opposed to one person doing it. That’s the theory behind conspiracy. They generally charge more than one person with a conspiracy too. Then they will attempt to obtain cooperation from one defendant against the other.
Defenses to a conspiracy include limiting the scope of the conspiracy. For instance, in drug cases an indictment may allege a large amount of controlled substances but a co-conspirator was only aware of a small amount. Also the government must prove that an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy was made and attributable to all co-conspirators which may not be true. Juries sometimes do not like conspiracy theories unless there was a crime actually committed. A jury will be more suspicious of an alleged conspiracy which can be the basis of a good defense.