Conspiracy

Conspiracy: California Penal Code section 182

In California, conspiracy is prosecuted and penalized just as harshly as the completed crime that is the object of the conspiracy. If you face charges of conspiracy to commit a crime, it is vital that you obtain the legal assistance of a skilled, experienced, and dedicated criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at McDowell & Associates, Attorneys will examine all of the evidence and fact to provide the strongest defense possible. Call us at (213) 401-2322 and schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys and get started on the defense you need.

Conspiracy

A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more parties to commit a crime.

In order to be found guilty of conspiracy in California, the agreement to commit a crime must exist and be followed by an overt act in furtherance of the agreement committed in California by at least one of the parties to the conspiracy.

The “Overt Act”
The overt act required for a conspiracy must occur after the agreement to commit the crime has been made, but before completion of the crime. It also must be in furtherance of the agreed upon crime, meaning it is done in order to help accomplish that crime.
The overt act need not be criminal in and of itself. For instance, buying a weapon or even a cell phone to use in the commission of the crime would suffice. The overt act can also be merely preparatory.

The Agreement
The agreement to commit a crime must actually exist. The agreement, however, need not be express; it can be inferred from the joint activity of the conspirators if they work together toward a criminal purpose.

Two or More Parties Requirement
To be guilty of conspiracy, there must be an agreement between two or more independent persons. This does not, however, require that the defendant know of every person involved in the conspiracy or what their roles are.

Relationship Between Conspiracy and the Underlying Offense
Conspiracy and the underlying offense are separate crimes that are charged and prosecuted separately. To be convicted of conspiracy, a defendant need not commit the actual offense. There only needs to be the agreement and an overt act in furtherance of the criminal purpose. Furthermore, the convictions of conspiracy and the underlying offense need not match up. A defendant charged with both conspiracy to commit a crime and with committing the crime may be convicted of just one or both of the charges.

Acts of Co-Conspirators
A conspirator will be found responsible for any crimes committed by any co-conspirator(s) if those crimes were committed in furtherance of the conspiracy. This is true even if the conspirator is not aware of these crimes.

Penalties for Conspiracy
The penalties for a conviction of conspiracy to commit a crime depend on what the underlying crime is. Some conspiracies are charged as felonies while others may be charged as misdemeanors.

Conspiracy to Commit One or More Felonies
A conviction for conspiracy to commit a felony carries the same punishment as the punishment for commission of that felony.
A conviction for conspiracy to commit two or more felonies that are part of the same conspiracy carries the same penalty for the felony with the most severe sentence.

Conspiracy Against a Government Official
A conviction for conspiring against a government official is punished as a felony with a prison sentence of five, seven, or nine years.

Conspiracy to Commit Fraud
Conspiracy to commit fraud, cheating someone out of money or property, may be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor, depending on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.
Felony: Maximum fine of $10,000 and 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in state prison
Misdemeanor: Maximum fine of $10,000 and up to one year in county jail

Conspiracy to Commit Murder
A conviction for conspiracy to commit murder, which includes the specific intent to kill another person and an act in furtherance of achieving that objective, carries equal punishment to first-degree murder.

Non-Murder Conspiracy Where Someone Dies
California’s Felony Murder Rule allows each co-conspirator who is a part of a conspiracy to commit a certain offense to be convicted of first-degree murder if someone dies during the commission of the offense. The deadly act must be either committed in furtherance of the offense or must be a foreseeable consequence of the offense.
Conspiracies that allow for this first-degree murder conviction include:
Rape
Arson
Kidnapping
Robbery
Carjacking
In order to be convicted of first-degree murder under California’s Felony Murder Rule, the co-conspirator must have been a part of the conspiracy prior to the killing. However, someone who joins the conspiracy after the killing may be found guilty as an accessory after the fact, a crime carrying its own separate consequences.

All Other Conspiracies
All other acts of conspiracy may be charged as felonies or as misdemeanors. This will depend on the facts of the case and the defendant’s criminal history.
It should be noted that it is possible to be convicted of felony conspiracy, even if the underlying offense is only a misdemeanor.
Punishment for these wobbler conspiracies are the same as for conspiracy to commit fraud, listed above. The only exception to this is conspiracy to commit identity theft, for which the maximum fine increases to $25,000.

Related Offenses

Aiding and Abetting
A defendant who encourages, facilitates, or aids in the commission of a crime may be found guilty for aiding and abetting. In California, a defendant convicted of aiding and abetting in the commission of a crime faces the same punishment as the person who actually commits the crime. This is true even if the aider and abettor was not actually present at the scene of the crime.

Accessory After the Fact
If a defendant helped the perpetrator of a crime to escape arrest, trial, conviction, or punishment after commission of the crime, s/he may be found guilty as an accessory after the fact.
A conviction for accessory after the fact carries less severe penalties than conspiracy. It may be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor. The felony and misdemeanor both carry a maximum fine of $5,000, and time in custody.
Felony: 16 months, 2 years, or 3 years in State Prison
Misdemeanor: Up to one year in county jail
It is possible, however, to be convicted of both conspiracy to commit the offense and as an accessory after the fact. The prosecutor would have to prove that you conspired to commit the offense, then in a separate and distinct act served as an accessory after commission of the offense.

Participation in a Criminal Street Gang
Under California’s conspiracy laws, Participation in a Criminal Street Gang makes a defendant guilty of conspiracy to commit a felony committed by the gang. In order to be found guilty of this, however, the prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did all of the following:
Actively participated in a criminal street gang
Did so with the knowledge that the gang’s members engaged in “a pattern of criminal activity”
Willfully promoted, furthered, assisted, or benefitted from any felonious criminal conduct by the gang
A conviction of participation in a criminal street gang carries the same penalties as a conspiracy conviction. Additionally, a defendant also convicted of participating in the underlying felony offense faces additional and consecutive punishment under California’s Criminal Street Gang Sentencing Enhancement under Penal Code section 186.22.

Contact McDowell & Associates, Attorneys

We know that it can be troublesome when you need to act quickly to access money. But often, obtaining valuable information on your case will depend on when you hire your attorney. Again, the old cliché “the sooner the better,” fits, as you don’t want to lose valuable witnesses, video, or other evidence which can be lost or destroyed quickly and easily. Call McDowell & Associates, Attorneys today to discuss the best financial arrangement possible for your particular situation at 213-401-2322.