What Does It Mean to Be Charged with Conspiracy?

If the goal of a federal prosecutor is to get as many charges to stick as possible, then conspiracy charges rank high on the list of add-ons that can potentially mean the difference between a conviction or nothing. Why is this? Simply put, alleging that a defendant was part of a conspiracy is to charge them with agreeing with someone else to commit a crime, and then that person took at least one action to further that goal. It is a perniciously broad statute that can be included with just about any other crime.
There is one statute – 18 U.S.C. § 371 – that is on the books that relates to conspiracy charges and covers a wide variety of conspiracy charges, such as conspiracy to commit an offense against the government, conspiracy to manufacture or even possess illegal drugs, conspiracy to commit antitrust violations, and many more. This is how a wide range of defendants from Al Capone to Enron-founder Kenneth Lay to Zacarias Moussaoui were all charged and/or convicted of conspiracy for a variety of different crimes.  
What makes conspiracy charges so attractive to prosecutors – and so difficult to maneuver around for defendants – is that very little is actually required to prove the charge. A conspiracy can be established between two people even if they have never met or had interaction with each other. All that is required is for the defendant to know that the other party was doing something to move the conspiracy along. Furthermore, there is no requirement that the two or more parties had a written agreement in place, meaning the bar for what constitutes an agreement is set extremely low.  
Another characteristic of conspiracy charges that make them so difficult is that no actual crime needs to be committed in addition to the conspiracy. To secure a conviction for conspiracy, it is enough for the defendant and another party to agree to commit a crime and then take one single step in that direction. The defendant does not have to actually be charged with a crime in order to be charged with conspiracy. For example, even an act as simple as buying a mask for the purpose of a bank robbery, but ultimately doing nothing else, could be enough to charge an individual with conspiracy.
The federal and Florida state penalties for conspiracy have enough teeth to make the charge a particularly heavy bargaining chip. Most federal penalties for conspiracy convictions hit in the range of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In Florida, a conspiracy charge is a felony and treated as such. Conspiracy convictions are related to the primary crime that is being charged, meaning that conspiracy to commit drug trafficking will be assessed at a lower level on the offense severity ranking chart than conspiracy to commit murder.
If you or a loved one is facing conspiracy charges, either at the federal or state level, consider contacting the attorneys at Weisberg Kainen Mark PL for a consultation. Their knowledgeable and experienced attorneys can advise you of your rights and options in this difficult situation.  

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Weisberg Kainen Mark, PL

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