Conspiracy Charge: Definition, Examples, and Sentence
Published September 21, 2023
When a person commits a crime, the court will charge them for it accordingly. Light crimes, often called misdemeanors, would land you in jail for at least six months. Meanwhile, serious crimes, also known as felonies, can land the offender in prison for one year to a lifetime. The sentence for a crime depends on its severity. That’s why it can get confusing if the crime in question is a conspiracy.
What Is A Conspiracy Charge?
A conspiracy charge is when the court charges two or more people with the act of plotting a crime. The offenders don’t necessarily have to act on their plans. Planning alone is already a crime.
This crime is confusing for two main reasons. Several things must happen first before the court can charge someone with conspiracy. Two, it can vary vastly in terms of severity.
To explain it further, it’s best to consider each of these reasons. Let’s start with the first one.
What Makes For A Conspiracy Charge?
For the court to charge someone with murder, a murder must occur. Similarly, to charge someone with burglary, a burglary must occur. What makes conspiracy charges unique? It’s the fact that even if the supposed offenders don’t do what they’ve planned, they can still be prosecuted. It’s easy to charge someone with conspiracy, but it’s not easy to prove. For that, three things are necessary:
- Agreement. The person agreed to commit the crime with their co-conspirator,
- Intent. The offenders have shown intent to commit a crime, and
- Action. At least one conspirator took steps towards achieving their goal.
Here are some examples of scenarios for each of the three conditions:
- There are text messages between the conspirators, or there’s a witness of the discussion.
- There’s a discussion after the initial agreement of the conspirators.
- The co-conspirator has received at least one tool that would aid the illegal plan.
An investigation is often enough to prove the existence of the first and third conditions. The intent is something that the court must prove through the trial. Here are examples of conspiracy:
- A person contacted an illegal drug dealer but didn’t attend the venue.
- Two people planned to hold up a store. Then, they bought masks but never followed through.
- A group of people created an intricate plan to rob a mansion but never got the chance to do so.
- A person contacted a hitman to murder someone, paid them, but terminated their request.
How To Get Out Of A Conspiracy Charge
The best way to get out of a conspiracy charge is to ensure the court cannot prove any of the three conditions mentioned above.
Unfortunately, while the plaintiff might find it difficult to prove, the defendant may also find it difficult to deny. After all, there’s often a lack of evidence for the existence or non-existence of conspiracy. Your best bet would be to hire a lawyer.
What Is The Sentence For A Conspiracy Charge?
A crime is usually either a felony or a misdemeanor. A misdemeanor like driving under the influence or possessing drugs carries light sentences. A felony like murder or kidnapping carries heavy sentences. A conspiracy charge is a wobbler, meaning it can be a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the circumstance. It generally depends on the kind of crime the conspirators were planning.
If they were conspiring to commit a murder, then it’s a felony. If the conspirators were planning to get drugs from a dealer, then it’s a misdemeanor. In short, the conspiracy charges sentences vary greatly.
Rather than that question, it might be better to discuss the sentences for a felony and misdemeanor:
- Misdemeanor: The possible sentences for a misdemeanor include several months of probation, up to six months of jail time, and up to $1,000 of fines. It can be a combination of two or three.
- Felony: The possible sentences for a felony include at least a year to a lifetime in prison, up to $10,000 of fines, or even a death sentence. It’s usually a combination of fines and prison.
Also, it’s worth noting that conspiracy can be at a federal or state level. There’s no difference in the sentence of federal conspiracy charges from a state conspiracy charge.
The difference between the two boils down to where the proceedings will happen. Proceedings for charges at the state level will naturally be held in the court within the same county or city where the crime was committed.
The proceedings of a federal conspiracy charge will occur in either the Supreme Court or district court.
Penalties and Jail Time
The prison time for a conspiracy charge can vary depending on the jurisdiction and the case’s specific details. In general, conspiracy is often considered a serious offense and can result in significant prison sentences. The sentence length depends on factors such as the nature and severity of the crime. Add in the individual’s level of involvement and any prior criminal record.
Here are some reported prison times if convicted of a conspiracy charge:
- In federal court, the judge generally awards a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in federal prison for conspiracy charges. Plus, monetary fines.
- Drug conspiracy convictions can result in prison sentences ranging up to 40 years. This significantly impacts one’s life and freedom.
- For drug conspiracy charges involving 5 grams or more of a substance containing methamphetamine, there is a mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years and a maximum sentence of 40 years.
- The general conspiracy statute provides a maximum punishment of under five years imprisonment and a fine of up to $250,000.00 for a felony offense.
What You Can Do
If someone you know is convicted of a conspiracy charge, here are some actions you can consider:
1. Offer support
Let the person know you are there for them and offer emotional support during this difficult time. Reassure them that they are not alone and that you will stand by them.
2. Seek legal advice
Encourage the person to consult with a qualified criminal defense attorney who specializes in conspiracy charges. A lawyer can provide guidance on the legal process, potential defenses, and options for appeal, if applicable.
3. Stay Informed
Educate yourself about the specific laws and regulations related to conspiracy charges in your jurisdiction. This will help you better understand the situation and provide informed support.
4. Maintain confidentiality
Respect the person’s privacy and maintain confidentiality regarding their case. Avoid discussing the details of their situation with others unless necessary or with their consent.
5. Stay positive and hopeful
Remind the person that despite facing a challenging situation, there is still hope for a fair trial and a just outcome. Encourage them to stay positive and focus on their defense strategy.
6. Explore support networks
Look for support groups or organizations that specialize in assisting individuals and families affected by criminal charges. These resources can guide, counsel, and assist in navigating the legal system.
7. Be prepared for potential consequences
Understand that a conviction may have various consequences. These are imprisonment, fines, probation, or other legal penalties. Discuss these possibilities with the person and help them prepare for any potential outcomes.
Remember, it is crucial to consult with a legal professional. Follow the advice of qualified attorneys to ensure the best possible outcome. This information is not a substitute for legal advice, so seeking professional guidance in such situations is recommended.
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About The Author
Meet Rei Bayucca, an accomplished writer with a passion for exploring a wide range of industries. Through her skilled and thoughtful writing, Rei aims to inspire and educate readers with content that stimulates the mind.