Federal Criminal Conspiracy Defense Lawyer
Conspiracy cases in the federal court system are confusing to many people. The federal government usually charges conspiracy when two or more people get together to commit a federal crime. The conspiracy concept permits federal prosecutors to arrest and convict members of a group who where not necessarily involved in all aspects of a crime. The key concept that prosecutors must prove is that all the members of the conspiracy agreed to be involved with a crime and they all had the same general objective. In my experience, conspiracy cases are typically filed related to drug charges.
Many times people are arrested for carrying drugs that have no idea what type of drugs they are carrying or who will receive the drugs. The issues becomes whether the person carrying the drugs knew or reasonably should have known that the subject narcotics where illegal and that they where being distributed for purposes of sale. Prosecutors will use a conspiracy or aider and abettor theory to attempt to capture all persons involved in the movement of the subject drugs.
Federal Statutes on Conspiracy
These are many statutes in the United States Code that criminalize conspiracy:
- 18 U.S.C. § 371 – Conspiracy to commit any offense against the United States or to defraud the United States
- 18 U.S.C. § 372 – Conspiracy to impede or injure officer
- 18 U.S.C. § 1349 – Conspiracy to commit fraud
- 18 U.S.C. § 24 – Conspiracy to commit a federal health care offense
- 18 U.S.C. § 241 – Conspiracy to deprive a person of their civil rights
- 18 U.S.C. § 286 – Conspiracy to submit fraudulent claims to the United States
- 18 U.S.C. § 1962(d) – Conspiracy to violate RICO
- 18 U.S.C. § 2384 – Seditious conspiracy
The general federal conspiracy statute makes it a crime for “two or more persons [to] conspire . . . to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose.”(1) It is distinct from the substantive crime contemplated and is charged as a separate offense.(2) Acquittal on a conspiracy charge does not bar prosecution of the substantive offense.(3) Likewise, acquittal of the substantive offense does not bar conviction on the conspiracy count.(4) Conspiracy is one of the most commonly charged federal crimes. There are four elements necessary for proving a criminal conspiracy, each of which the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt. A conspiracy exists where there is:
- An agreement between at least two parties;
- To achieve an illegal goal;
- With knowledge of the conspiracy and with actual participation in the conspiracy; and
- At least one conspirator committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.
When it comes to federal criminal offense, conspiracy is a weapon that the federal prosecutors use often to charge multiple people committing a federal crime — whether that be bank fraud, some sort of a drug crime or any other crime where multiple people are involved. This concept of conspiracy is a little bit confusing for the lay person. A lot of people believe that conspiracy is actually itself a crime. The reality is it’s not.
Conspiracy is an Agreement Between Two or More to Commit a Crime
Conspiracy is a theory by which prosecutors in federal criminal cases can prosecute cases. They can say, you two people got together to do a conspiracy to do mail fraud, to do a drug transaction or whatever. They’re trying to link multiple people and basically what it is is an agreement between a couple of people to commit a criminal offense. Each party has to take a substantial step towards that offense, play a role, play a part, know what’s going on and then the government can charge that person with conspiracy.
So, you may see conspiracy to commit certain offenses. The conspiracy itself is not a crime, but it is a legal theory by which the prosecutors can get people convicted of crimes. So, conspiracy to commit bank fraud, conspiracy to be involved with the sale of drugs or the trafficking of drugs, conspiracy to be involved in sex-related offenses, traveling throughout the United States — there’s all sorts of angles that this conspiracy theory can be used.
So, if you’ve got a case and the theory is conspiracy, probably there’s more than participant involved, and probably the person who is being charged with conspiracy may not have done all of the acts related to the conspiracy.
In other words, if a couple of people get together and they decide to do a drug conspiracy, one person gets the drugs, another person moves the drugs, and yet another person sells the drugs and then divides the proceeds among three people, we don’t have everybody doing the same thing. So, one person can say, I didn’t move those drugs.
Another person can say, I didn’t sell those drugs. But if the government can prove by way of this conspiracy theory in a federal criminal case that all of you agreed to be involved in this transaction, all of you are profiting from the movement and sale of drugs, then they can get you for conspiracy to move drugs. Everybody will be held equally responsible, just as much as the other person that’s involved in the conspiracy. Any statements made by co-conspirators against their participants can be used against those people.
Conspiracy Theory is a Vital Weapon for Federal Prosecutors
So, this conspiracy theory gives the government a lot. It’s a very nice weapon that the federal government has to prosecute some of these cases where they normally wouldn’t be able to prosecute them. They normally could prove and couldn’t show that somebody did all the elements necessary for a particular crime, so they use this conspiracy theory to show jurors that even though the person didn’t do this, they didn’t do this, they were in on the agreement.
They knew what was going to happen. They participated. They benefited and they played a substantial role in whatever it was that was accomplished and we can use this conspiracy theory to prosecute them and that’s exactly what the government does. That’s what they say.
So, if you’re charged with an offense and they’re using conspiracy as one of the way in order to try to get you, come in and sit down. I’ve been doing these conspiracy-related offenses at both the state and federal level ow for twenty-five years. I know what the government has to prove. I know when they don’t have a good enough case.
I know what defenses can be utilized if it’s not foreseeable what the other people are doing. If you don’t have all the information, if you weren’t involved in the agreement, if you didn’t benefit completely — if you were only a small piece of it, if people didn’t tell you what really was going to happen and you only had a small taste of what was going on, then there’s a strong argument that you were not involved in the conspiracy, and therefore, you should be held responsible for the target crimes.
Consult with our Federal Criminal Defense Law Firm
Pick up the phone. Make the call and we’ll get you on the right path related to your federal criminal case. It is extremely important to hire an attorney that is familiar with conspiracy cases and has handled them before. The federal criminal defense lawyers at the Hedding Law Firm has handled countless conspiracy cases and we are well versed in what needs to be done to successfully represent someone charged in a federal conspiracy case.