Merely being accused of a federal crime can ruin an individual's reputation, and a conviction could lead to years in prison, thousands of dollars in fines and a criminal record that can make life extremely difficult. Although these penalties are a very real possibility for those who are alleged to have actually carried out the criminal act, even those who were part of thinking out and planning the alleged offense could face an uphill legal battle.
Under federal law, it is illegal for anyone to conspire to commit a crime against or defraud the country, so long as action was taken in furtherance of that crime. A discussion about committing a crime against the United States is not against the law. However, if, for example, materials are acquired that are necessary to carry out those plans, then conspiracy may have occurred. The penalties for this criminal offense are rather steep, with fines and up to five years in prison both possibilities.
Those who are accused of conspiracy should be sure to present the best criminal defense they can muster. There is often a lot of grey area when it comes to this criminal offense, as there is room to argue about what constitutes an act in furtherance of the crime. Those facing this type of charge will need to know statutory and case law and how to utilize it to their benefit. The right legal approach may lead to the charges being dismissed, a not guilty verdict or a lesser charge.
Source: Legal Information Institute, "18 U.S. Code § 371," accessed Jan. 15, 2015