- What is Conspiracy?
- What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Conspiracy?
- What is the sentence / punishment for Conspiracy?
- What are possible defenses to charges of Conspiracy?
What is Conspiracy?
Conspiracy is two or more people planning to commit a crime, and, usually, taking an overt act toward committing the crime. There are several other more specific cases where Conspiracy may apply (such as committing a crime against the President, Vice President, Governor, etc.), but most often, Conspiracy applies to planning a crime. Cal. Pen. Code s. 182 .
What are the necessary elements to be found guilty of Conspiracy?
To prove the defendant committed Conspiracy, the state must generally show that the defendant:
- Two or more people planned to commit a crime; and
- One or both of the people performed an overt act toward the commission of that crime.
The overt act need not be anything major. It just has to be a concrete step toward committing the crime.
For specific cases of Conspiracy under Cal. Pen. Code s. 182 , there may be slightly different requirements, but these are the most common elements.
What is the sentence / punishment for Conspiracy?
If the Conspiracy is against a government official, the Conspiracy is a felony and is punishable by five, seven, or nine years in prison. Cal. Pen. Code s. 182 (a) .
If the Conspiracy is for any other felony, the punishment will be the same as for the underlying felony. If there are degrees of the underlying crime, the trier of fact will decide which degree is supported by the facts. If the degree cannot be determined, the lesser degree of the crime will be used in determining the punishment unless the crime is murder in which case 1st degree murder will be used.
If the Conspiracy is to commit multiple felonies each with different punishments, the felony with the greatest punishment will be used in determining the sentence for the Conspiracy.
If the Conspiracy is to defraud or cheat any person, the sentence is one year in jail and/or $10,000 fine or prison time pursuant to Cal. Pen. Code s. 1170 (h).
If the Conspiracy is for any of the other acts in Cal. Pen. Code s. 182 (a) , the sentence is one year in jail and/or $10,000 fine or prison time pursuant to Cal. Pen. Code s. 1170 (h). If the underlying crime is identity theft, the maximum fine is $25,000, though.
What are possible defenses to charges of Conspiracy?
To prove someone committed a crime, the state (through its prosecutors) must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed each element of the crime. Therefore, defenses to any crime start with negating one or more of the elements of the crime. Additionally, some crimes allow for “affirmative” defenses which, if the defendant can prove the defense applies, will result in a verdict of “not guilty” even if the prosecutor proves the defendant met each of the elements of the crime.
If the prosecutor can prove all the elements of Conspiracy, however, the defendant must prove that one or more justifications for his actions existed (i.e., it is the defendant’s burden to prove an affirmative defense). For Conspiracy, some of these justifications include:
- Duress / Threats;
- Entrapment; and
- Statute of Limitations.