The crime lies in the agreement to violate the law and the subsequent steps taken to accomplish this goal.
A key element of conspiracy is that all parties involved must have intended to commit the act and must have voluntarily agreed to participate. Simply knowing about a conspiracy or associating with conspirators doesn’t necessarily constitute a crime. There must be evidence of intent to further the unlawful act. In addition, an overt act – an act in furtherance of the conspiracy, however minor – must usually be proved.
Who Investigates Conspiracy
Conspiracy cases are typically investigated by law enforcement agencies, such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), or local police departments, depending on the nature of the alleged crime. These agencies gather evidence, often using tools like surveillance, wiretaps, informants, and undercover officers, to determine if a conspiracy exists and who is involved.
Federal conspiracy laws are found in Title 18 of the United States Code. There are many specific conspiracy statutes, each tied to the nature of the underlying unlawful act, such as conspiracy to commit murder, conspiracy to commit fraud, or conspiracy to distribute drugs. However, the most general is Section 371, which makes it a crime to conspire to commit any offense against the United States or to defraud the United States or any agency thereof.
The penalties for conspiracy depend on the underlying crime that was the object of the conspiracy. Under Section 371, the maximum penalty is a fine, imprisonment for up to five years, or both. However, if the object of the conspiracy is a misdemeanor, the maximum penalty is the maximum penalty for that misdemeanor. It’s important to note that these are maximum penalties, and the actual sentence can vary depending on various factors. For accurate and up-to-date information, it’s recommended to consult a legal professional or the most recent version of the federal statutes.
US Sentencing Guidelines for Conspiracy
Possible EnhancementsSeveral specific offense characteristics can lead to enhancements in the sentencing level for conspiracy:
- Role in the Offense: If the defendant was an organizer, leader, manager, or supervisor in any criminal activity, the offense level may be increased by 2 to 4 levels.
- Obstruction of Justice: If the defendant obstructed or attempted to obstruct justice during the investigation, prosecution, or sentencing of the instant offense, the offense level may be increased by 2 levels.
- Use of a Minor: If a minor was used in the commission of the offense, the offense level may be increased by 2 levels.