Did you know that a person can face federal conspiracy charges without ever actually following through with a planned crime? Conspiracy charges can be incredibly frustrating, as co-conspirators often face the same penalties. For example, a person who merely makes a phone call to set up a drug deal could receive the same sentence as the person who actually carried the drugs into the meeting.
It’s important to understand the elements of a federal conspiracy charge and the steps you can take to help defend yourself.
It takes two
To be charged with a conspiracy, two or more people must agree to commit a criminal act. The other elements of a conspiracy charge must establish that:
- You knew and voluntarily participated in the conspiracy; and
- Someone committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy
The intention and overt act requirements are key components of any conspiracy charge. Hypothetically, discussing the best way to rob a bank with a group of friends is not a conspiracy as long as no one does anything more than discuss the topic. The overt act, however, is satisfied when an act is performed by any conspirator; it is not necessary that the overt act was committed by the person on trial.
Building a defense
The feds often start building a conspiracy case long before they ever make an arrest or formally charge a person. This can put you at a distinct disadvantage as prosecutors often have ample evidence in hand right from the start. You should speak with an attorney right away if you’re made aware that you’re under investigation. Doing so can help you prepare to answer any charges that may follow an investigation.
There are several options for defending against a federal conspiracy charge, including:
- Challenging the idea that a conspiracy ever existed
- Challenging whether you had actual knowledge that you were agreeing to an illegal act
- Challenging whether you willfully participated
It’s crucial to work with an attorney who has experience handling federal criminal charges. The rules and procedures of federal court are much different than state court. A skilled legal professional can help you protect your rights.