Criminal Conspiracy

The definition of conspiracy is negative no matter how it is used. Under common law, a conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to engage in something illegal, with one or more participants taking action towards that goal. It is not necessary for any particular action to actually be illegal to be considered part of a criminal conspiracy as long as the involved parties intended to commit a crime. It is also not necessary for the criminal act to be completed for the involved parties to be charged with criminal conspiracy.

Some criminal conspiracies may ultimately lead to a legal end, but through illegal means, which still constitutes a crime. An example would be robbing the rich to feed the poor. While we may sympathize, the act of robbery is still a crime, so Robin Hood and his Merry Men would have been charged with criminal conspiracy as well as for robbery.

In the US, any illegal activity participated in by two or more people constitute a criminal conspiracy. If a group of doctors, for example, agree to refer patients to each other for unnecessary procedures or tests in order to increase their Medicare billing, this would be a conspiracy to commit fraud. The doctors may be charged with the crimes of criminal conspiracy and Medicare fraud and at the same time sued by the state government in civil court for fraud.

What is important to prove in a charge of criminal conspiracy is the general intent of the parties involved to violate the law; it is not necessary to prove intent to cause harm to others or for all parties to be cognizant of the identities of all other conspirators. All conspirators may receive the same punishment regardless of the roles of each and who was active i.e. actually committed the robbery. However, it is required that some overt step be taken towards committing a crime, except in certain cases such as the federal law on drug conspiracy.

The prosecutor can choose to charge all participants or specific individuals, depending on the focus of an investigation. The prosecutor may decide that concentrating on the “big fish” will most benefit a particular case.

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