Federal Conspiracy: Understanding your defense

Do you know that there is at least one thing that the 9/11 terrorists, the Italian mafia, the Colombian drug cartels, and the former executives of Enron all have in common – they have all been convicted of federal conspiracy.  On its most fundamental level, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to do something illegal.  The crime occurs at the moment the agreement is made.

Now you may ask yourself, “I can commit a crime by just making an agreement?”  The answer is yes, and conspiracy is often the crime that is charged when you make an agreement to achieve some unlawful goal.  On this page, we will discuss some of the basics of conspiracy:  what it is, what the penalties might be, and how you can defend against a federal charge of conspiracy. 

If you or a loved one have been charged with federal conspiracy of any kind (a drug trafficking conspiracy, or a racketeering conspiracy), then you need the help of an experienced federal conspiracy defense attorney. 

We welcome you to contact the Law Office of Jeremy Gordon.  With a proven track record of favorable outcomes and excellent service to clients, Jeremy Gordon can get the best outcome for you and your family if you are facing federal conspiracy charges.  Schedule a free phone consultation today.

What is Conspiracy?

As noted above, conspiracy is simply an agreement of two to more persons with the goal of engaging in some form of unlawful conduct.  To be clear, many conspiracy crimes require a federal prosecutor to prove that at least one of the conspirators committed some type of overt act (in other words, took some concrete action), in furtherance of the conspiracy.  Notably, however, the federal drug conspiracy statute does not require that a prosecutor prove an overt act.  With drug conspiracies, the agreement is enough to constitute a federal crime.

In the federal law, there are many federal conspiracy statutes.  18 U.S.C. 371, for example, is a general conspiracy statute that makes it a crime when someone agrees to commit some other federal crime.  There are also, however statutes focused on conspiracies to engage in certain specific forms of illegal conduct, such as conspiracies to commit terrorism, drug trafficking, or racketeering. 

Here are a few things you need to know about the charge of conspiracy:

  • Multiple charges.  Because conspiracies involving a group of people are seen as posing a greater danger than crimes committed by a single offender, federal charges in an indictment can add up.  Specifically, if you are charged with conspiracy, you are most likely also going to be charge with the substantive offense that is the object of the conspiracy, and any foreseeable other offenses that a conspirator may commit in furtherance of the criminal agreement.
  • Statute of limitations.  Conspiracy is viewed as continuing crime.  That means that the conspiracy is not over until the last overt act needed to complete the illegal goal is finished.  Thus, the statute of limitations on conspiracy does not begin to run until that last overt act is committed.
  • No double jeopardy issue.  It is possible that you could be prosecuted and convicted of the underlying substantive offense, and then prosecuted separately for conspiracy.  While that is not common, as all charges tend to be handled in one case, it is possible for that to occur without offending double jeopardy principles.  That is because conspiracy (the criminal agreement) is a crime that is separate and apart from the underlying substantive offense (the criminal object of the agreement).
  • Co-conspirator statements.  Because those accused of conspiracy tend to be tried together, it is often the case that one conspirator’s statement will be admitted into evidence against all the conspirators.
  • No merger.  There are times when a court will “merge” certain offenses for sentencing purposes.  That is to say that a judge may give one sentence for a conviction of two or more crimes.  For example, drug possession and drug distribution could be two separate convictions.  Yet, for sentencing purposes, the judge will merge the possession into the distribution conviction and impose a single sentence.  Unfortunately, conspiracy does not merge with other crimes.  Thus, if you are convicted of conspiracy and the underlying offense, the judge will impose a sentence for each conviction.      

Penalties for Conspiracy

As noted above, 18 U.S.C. 371 is the general conspiracy statute.  Conspiracies under that statute are punishable by up to five years in federal prison.  With regard to other conspiracy statutes focused on specific types of crime, the penalties for conspiracy in those cases are the same as the penalties for the underlying substantive offense. 

For example, if you are convicted of conspiracy to commit drug trafficking (under 21 U.S.C. 846), then the potential punishment will be the same as the potential punishment for the crime of drug trafficking itself, which could mean a potential sentence of much more than five years in prison.

In addition, all conspiracy statutes provide for penalties up to $250,000 in fines (that could be as high as $500,000 for criminal organizations), and restitution and forfeiture penalties are also possible for conspiracy.

Defenses to Conspiracy

A seasoned federal defense attorney can help you determine what would be the best defense, or defenses, against a federal conspiracy charge.  Here are a few defenses that are often raised in conspiracy cases:

  • Mere presence.  If you were merely present with the co-conspirators at the time of the agreement but you did not act in a way that would suggest that you had any connection to the conspiracy, then you may have a defense to conspiracy.
  • Coercion.  It is a defense to conspiracy if your participation in the agreement was only obtained through coercion or the threat of force against you.  With this type of defense, you would need to prove that there was an imminent fear or threat if you did not participate, and that you had no opportunity to escape.
  • Withdrawal.  You can defend against a conspiracy charge by showing that you withdrew or renounced the conspiracy before an overt act was committed.  Your withdrawal or renunciation must be clear to be valid.

Get the Help of an Experienced Conspiracy Defense Attorney

Conspiracy charges, just like the conspiracies themselves, can be complex.  That means that you need an experienced federal criminal defense attorney in your corner.  At The Law Firm of Jeremy Gordon, we have extensive experience fighting federal conspiracy charges.  Let us help you with the representation you need. 

Federal criminal defense attorney Jeremy Gordon has the background and resources in conspiracy and all other criminal matters to help you through the ordeal of a federal criminal prosecution.  He will vigorously fight for your rights in court and give you sound advice on what options to take as your case progresses.   Schedule a free phone consultation with our office today.  Let us help you get the best outcome possible.