In the middle of a criminal investigation, police want to ask you some questions. Perhaps you are not under arrest, but do you have a relationship or association with someone suspected of a crime? Do you have some knowledge of the events related to the crime? If you do, you would be wise to remain silent until you can obtain solid legal advice. Otherwise, you may find yourself facing conspiracy charges.
Perhaps one of the easiest federal crimes to prove is conspiracy. It may take very little for police to connect the dots between you and some criminal activity. A conviction for conspiracy may carry severe penalties, including prison time and significant fines. Understanding the elements of a conspiracy charge may assist you in avoiding the charges or building a case if you are already under suspicion.
The elements of conspiracy
Criminal conspiracy occurs when a group of two or more people make an agreement to commit a crime and then take steps toward completing their plan. This can involve any unlawful act, such as crimes involving drugs, weapons, identity theft and fraud, corruption, or white collar crimes. Even if the actual crime never occurs or you do not play a part in the criminal act, your alleged involvement in the planning and proceeding with the actions may result in charges. Prosecutors must prove the following elements for a conviction:
- That your words or actions and those of others implied your agreement with the plan to commit a crime, even if the agreement was informal
- That your actions, such as purchasing a weapon or holding meetings with others allegedly involved in the crime, were obvious steps toward performing the act
- That you intended to follow through with the outcome or to participate in some way even if the crime did not occur.
Intent is not always easy to prove, and the burden is on the prosecution to make its case. If you are associated with someone accused of a crime or even if someone tells you he or she is going to commit a crime, that does not necessarily mean you were involved in a conspiracy to perform an unlawful act.
Conspiracy is often a charge that is added to other charges, such as drug trafficking, but law enforcement agents may have filed conspiracy charges against you simply to obtain information about a crime. No matter the situation, if you are facing these serious federal charges, you would be wise to exercise your right to remain silent.