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What does it mean to be a “conspirator” in a crime?

On Behalf of | Aug 14, 2023 | Criminal Defense

You’ve probably heard of people being charged with “conspiracy” to commit a crime, but what exactly does that mean? Criminal conspiracy charges are commonly leveled against people in drug cases, robberies, violent crimes and white-collar fraud cases, so they can take many different forms.

Would it surprise you to learn that a crime doesn’t even have to take place for conspiracy charges to be brought against someone? Here are the basics you should know.

Criminal conspiracies require agreement and action

At its most basic, a criminal conspiracy is any situation where:

  • Two or more people agree to commit a felony and have every intention of doing so
  • At least one person actually takes action in furtherance of that crime

It doesn’t matter if the action that was taken was perfectly legal, nor does it matter if the goal behind the intended crime succeeds. It also doesn’t matter if only one person in the conspiracy acted or if all of them did. Everybody involved can end up facing the same charges.

A classic example is when people conspire to assault and murder someone. Imagine that Abe, Bob and Cody are furious about something a neighbor, Dan, did to one of them. They decide that they’re going to “teach him a lesson,” so they agree to lure him someplace private where they can lie in wait and attack him. Abe picks up the phone and pretends to want to meet with Dan to talk. At that moment, even if Dan never shows up that night, Abe, Bob and Cody have become part of a criminal conspiracy because they had an agreement to commit a felony-level crime, every intention to act and one of them took action to put the plan in motion.

It’s important to note that merely being present when a crime happens or when other people discuss their intention to commit a crime is not the same as being part of a criminal conspiracy. However, sometimes law enforcement officers and prosecutors jump to conclusions and equate proximity to guilt.

If you’re facing a conspiracy charge, it’s wisest to exercise your right to remain silent until you can fully explore your legal options with the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.