Federal conspiracy laws are meant to discourage major crimes that involve the participation of more than one person, but are also often used as a tactic against a group of defendants, hoping to turn them against one another. If you are charged with federal conspiracy, it is important to know what the charge means specifically and what sentences it can carry.
18 U.S. Code § 371 specifically addresses conspiracy as such: “…[i]f two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose.” However, many other statutes have conspiracy clauses included in them. A conspiracy is, simply put, an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime. The conspiracy doesn’t have to be overly complex, formally discussed or planned, or involve a major crime. Another element of a conspiracy is that someone carried out at least one act towards accomplishing the goal of the agreement.
The agreement must be between at least two people that are not law enforcement officers, federal agents or confidential informants in order to stand up in court. The most common federal conspiracy charges involve fraud or drug trafficking. The transactional exchange between a drug dealer and buyer would not count as a conspiracy, as the two did not plot to buy and sell drugs together, but if two friends agree to rob a bank and carry out at least one act towards robbing a bank, such as buying ski masks, then that could carry a charge of conspiracy. To learn more about federal conspiracy laws, click here.
Sentences for federal conspiracy charges differ depending on the nature of the crime central to the conspiracy. If the crime being conspired is a felony, individuals may be sentenced to up to life in prison and be charged a very large fine. Federal prosecutors often charge conspiracies that require 5, 10 or 20-year mandatory minimum prison sentences. However, federal prosecutors often reduce the sentencing range of this charge if an individual provides testimony against his or her co-defendants. A defendant’s criminal history, or lack of one, also greatly affects conspiracy charge sentencing.
Conspiracy laws are broad and the sentencing, if convicted, varies depending on the nature of the crime and other mitigating factors. If you are accused or indicted on federal conspiracy charges, your first move should be to seek representation right away.