What You Need to Know About Federal Conspiracy Charges

Illionois defense attorney,  Illinois criminal defense lawyerDid you know that you could be charged with a federal crime even if authorities are aware that you did not actually commit what most people would consider an illegal act? At some point or another, most of us have talked or joked about the idea of committing some type of crime—such as robbing a bank when family finances get tight. Doing so may seem harmless, especially when such conversations are light-hearted, but in reality, having serious discussions or making plans related to the commission of a crime could lead to the filing of federal conspiracy charges. It is possible to be charged with conspiracy even if the discussed act or acts were never actually carried out.

Understanding Federal Conspiracy Charges

Criminal conspiracy is one of the most common charges filed at the federal level. In general, prosecutors are often likely to file this because it allows for a broad set of evidence to be presented. Federal conspiracy charges are also commonly used as leverage by federal prosecutors and law enforcement agencies as they investigate larger-scale criminal operations. For example, a federal agent could threaten to charge a person with criminal conspiracy unless the person is willing to cooperate and share additional details about other individuals who may have carried out the primary offense in question.

Federal charges for criminal conspiracy can be brought against a suspect in connection with any federal crime, including federal drug crimes, federal white-collar offenses, and federal child pornography charges. A federal conspiracy charge means that federal agents or prosecutors have reasons to believe that at least two individuals somehow agreed to work together in committing a federal offense. To obtain a conviction on federal conspiracy charges, the United States attorney who is prosecuting the case must be able to prove several elements, including:

  • Two more people agreed to act in committing an offense prohibited by the United States Code.
  • The defendant understood that the crime was the intended goal of the agreement.
  • The defendant was a willing participant in the discussions or planning.
  • At least one member of the conspiracy took an active step toward committing the crime.

Examples of Criminal Conspiracy

The intended or original crime does not need to be completed in order to justify charges of criminal conspiracy. For example, suppose a group of four friends organized a plan to rob a federal bank. As the group is on their way to commit the crime, federal agents catch up with the group and arrest them. Nothing was taken from the bank, and in fact, the would-be robbers never even made it inside the door. All four, however, would probably be charged with criminal conspiracy. If the bank had been robbed and the group was arrested afterward, conspiracy would probably be added to the charges of robbery.

It is also important to realize that you could be charged with conspiracy even if you are not aware of the full scope of the primary crime or criminal activity. Suppose, for example, that one of your friends asks you to take his car—which you know has illegal drugs in it—to some drop-off point. You do not know who is picking it up or when, but you could still face charges for conspiracy and drug trafficking because you agreed to help in the commission of a federal crime.

Get Help From a Cook County Federal Crimes Attorney

If you are facing federal charges for criminal conspiracy, you need a qualified attorney immediately. At the Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel, we will work closely with you at all stages of your case from questioning by federal authorities, to negotiations with prosecutors, to a courtroom trial if necessary. Contact an experienced Chicago federal crimes defense lawyer today. Call 312-270-0999 at any time of the day or night for a free consultation.

Sources:

https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/371

https://www.justice.gov/archives/jm/criminal-resource-manual-923-18-usc-371-conspiracy-defraud-us

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