Conspiracy refers to the act of planning to commit a crime, then further taking action towards making sure the criminal act has happened. The problem with conspiracy is that sometimes while two or more people may have planned an event, one may not necessarily see through the actual execution of the crime. Prosecutors will still attempt to levy maximum penalties on co-conspirators, which is why it is important to know the elements that constitute criminal conspiracy under the California Penal Code 182.
1. DO NOT DRAFT AN AGREEMENT CONTRACT TO COMMIT A CRIME
The element of agreement simply implies that each of the conspirators must have an equal agreement and understanding of carrying out the crime. When there is no agreement, then there is equally no ground for conspiracy. Making an agreement doesn’t necessarily entail the formalities and lengthy meetings that you’re currently envisioning in your mind. Most criminals, no matter how daft, would actually draft a legal document or proclaim that they have agreed to commit a crime and are aware of the terms involved. However, two people meeting for the sole purpose of planning a crime counts as criminal conspiracy.
2. DO NOT COMMIT AN “OVER ACT”
In simple terms, over act means taking the next step towards committing a crime after making the initial plan. Not taking “that next step,” which would further contribute to the success of you carrying out your criminal activity successfully, prevents conspiracy charges. For example, walking into a store and purchasing a gun to use during a robbery is a perfect example of “taking the next step” or an Over Act. Simply thinking about and imagining how you would see through a crime doesn’t make it illegal. In truth, we’ve all thought about committing a few crimes in our lives and even explained how we’d go about it. Luckily, the Over Act element prevents courts from throwing people in jail for simply thinking about committing a crime.
3. WITHDRAWING FROM THE CONSPIRACY
Another way you can make it out of conspiracy charges is by withdrawing from the agreement. But there’s a catch. Suppose you and your co-conspirators have managed to draw the robbery plan of the century and you head to the store to purchase a gun. Before entering the gun store, you have a change of heart and inform your co-conspirators that you no longer wish to partake in the crime. By withdrawing from the conspiracy BEFORE an Over Act happens, conspiracy charges won’t apply in your case. This element specifically gives conspirators a last chance at redemption before committing an even greater offense. You need to communicate that you have rejected the plan before committing an Over Act. It helps if you have evidence, like a voice recording, of you rejecting the plans with your team. Waiting any later just adds to your long list offenses.
4. USE THE “I WAS DRUNK DURING THAT MEETING” EXCUSE
Like any other crime, prosecutors must prove that there was intent in seeing through that the crime happens. At this point, the court will try and assess whether you made the agreement willingly and with knowledge about the outcome and consequences of your actions. This would be a great time to use the intoxication defense. In another example, being in the company of people discussing their next crime is not conspiracy.
Conspiracy charges will be much easier to evade if you have a good attorney by your side. Prosecutors tend to be brutal when advocating for the maximum penalty for coconspirators, but an experienced attorney should be able to fight for a lesser penalty or no convictions at all. Don Hammond is an experienced criminal defense attorney and hero, who won’t rest until the odds fall in your favor. He retains a 100% client satisfaction rate!