While we all know committing an act that explicitly goes against state and federal laws is considered a crime, many don’t know that even preparing or planning to commit a crime is also illegal. Planning to commit a crime is considered conspiracy under federal law, and can result harsh punishments depending on what crimes were intended to be committed. If you are facing conspiracy charges, it’s important to seek a conspiracy defense lawyer for your case.
Criminal Conspiracy in Pinellas County, Florida
In order for there to be a case for conspiracy, two or more people must be proven to agree to commit an unlawful act and take some sort of action to complete it. Although those actions may not have been illegal themselves, if they were a part of a larger plan involved in committing a crime, it can be considered part of a conspiracy.
Let’s say you and a friend decided to rob a bank. There are various text messages that have been found, proving you both had agreed and were planning to commit a crime. While the texts on their own would not be enough to charge someone for conspiracy, actions taken towards committing the crime after sending them them would be. While it’s perfectly legal to buy a gun in most states with the proper permits and background checks, if you and your friend bought a gun soon after those texts were sent, that can be considered an action taken toward committing the bank robbery. Regardless of whether or not this robbery was completed, you and your friend can be charged with criminal conspiracy.
Agreeing to Commit a Crime
Many times, the agreements to commit a crime in a conspiracy case may be up to interpretation. It’s unusual for an exchange to be recorded where an individual involved in a conspiracy case can explicitly state that they “agree to conspire to commit a crime,” so proving the agreement can be contingent upon many factors. Usually in these cases, the agreement is either implicit or determined by the actions of “two or more guilty minds,” such as planning meetings or processing transactions between all parties.
However, association with or being in the presence of conspirators does not necessarily make someone an accomplice or a conspirator themselves. The case of U.S. v. Wardell helped establish this important clause to help narrow down conspirators involved in a crime.
Intending to Commit a Crime
In conspiracy cases, the intention to commit a conspired crime is the most important part of a case against a defendant. Not only can it be a proven action towards committing said crime, but it can also be a form of evidence towards your agreement to commit the crime. This is not only the case for a defendant as an individual, but all parties involved in the crime’s conspiracy. All parties involved must agree to and take action intending to commit the crime to be a valid conspiracy. Knowledge of the crime alone may not be enough to be considered a conspirator, but knowledge and helping drive a getaway car, for example, can be.
Penalties for Criminal Conspiracy
Penalties for conspiracy crimes are typically determined by the crime intended to be committed. Typically, it is one ranking below the original charge of the crime. If a crime, should it have been committed, is considered a first-degree felony, the penalty to conspire to commit the crime would be a second-degree felony. It’s important to note that even if the crime had actually been committed, a defendant can still be charged for the conspiracy of the crime and the crime itself as well. Since both charges can be applied to a defendant, the punishments are typically much stricter and complicated due to the double conviction.
Defenses for Criminal Conspiracy
Although the laws involving criminal conspiracy are a little convoluted, there are ways for an attorney to defend a criminal conspiracy case. Since agreeing to commit a crime is part of the materials necessary to have a case of criminal conspiracy, undermining the evidence pointing to the agreement can be a good way to defend a case. Furthermore, proving that there was never an agreement made can help strengthen a defense case.
As previously noted, being present at the scene of the crime is not enough evidence to charge someone with conspiracy. Presence alone does not equate to intent, as well as the actual action to commit the crime unless there was some knowledge about it beforehand. Furthermore, being involved in minor details of the crime is also not enough to have a case for conspiracy against someone.
Contact Pinellas Criminal Law for Your Conspiracy Defense Case Today
While you may not have actually committed a crime, charges can still be brought against you if it is proven that you agreed to and made actions intending to commit a crime. Agreement can come in many forms, and the actions required to establish intent may also be up to interpretation. If you’ve been charged with criminal conspiracy to commit a crime, it’s important to take it seriously and seek legal representation to defend yourself. Penalties for conspiracy cases, although less than the actual crimes, can still range up to a first degree felony for serious crimes intended to be committed. Contact our team of experienced attorneys at Pinellas Criminal Law in Pinellas County, Florida today to help protect your rights.