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Can you be charged with conspiracy if you didn’t act criminally?

On Behalf of | Mar 6, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Multiple types of crimes can involve a conspiracy. Everything from the theft of a car to white collar fraud can involve more than one person. 

People often don’t realize that conspiracy to commit a crime can be, in itself, a criminal offense even if the crime was never carried out or if it was carried out without them. That’s because it’s a “crime of intent.”

What does California law say about conspiracy?

Under California law, a conspiracy is when two or more people conspire to a commit a crime or fraud, to frame someone else for a crime or to commit “any act injurious to the public health, to public morals, or to pervert or obstruct justice, or the due administration of the laws.”

When do words or actions move into the realm of “conspiracy?” Under the law, a person must have engaged in an “overt act” towards committing the crime. If a few friends are casually talking about beating someone up and then decide not to, that’s not conspiracy. However, if one of them gets a baseball bat and they go to the person’s house before deciding not to do it, they could potentially all be charged with conspiracy.

A conspiracy charge can be challenging for prosecutors to prove – particularly when it comes to someone who may have been involved in the discussion and planning but who didn’t actually take part in any actions that led to the crime. It’s even more difficult if the crime was never carried out.

Potential criminal consequences

The severity of the criminal penalties for conspiracy depend in large part on the severity of the criminal action. For example, conspiracy to commit murder is a more serious crime than conspiracy to commit armed robbery or fraud. They also depend on a person’s degree of involvement in the conspiracy.

One of the difficult things about an arrest for conspiracy is that likely one or more other people have been arrested as well. All may have different stories about who “led” the conspiracy. Police and prosecutors may ultimately have to decide whose version of events leading up to the crime they believe. It’s crucial to get your own legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your rights and make your case.

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