Someone who has entered into an agreement with another person to commit a crime, and then takes action to commit that crime, is guilty of criminal conspiracy. The action can be small or large and does not necessarily have to result in the crime being committed, but if proven, it will result in a conviction of criminal conspiracy under Pennsylvania law [ http://www.legis.state.pa.us/WU01/LI/LI/CT/HTM/18/00.009.003.000..HTM].
A conspiracy only ends without the crime being committed if the agreement is clearly abandoned. This can be very difficult to prove, so facing a charge of criminal conspiracy is very serious and can be difficult to challenge without an experienced Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney.
What Are the Elements of a Conspiracy?
Conspiracy requires that two or more people agree to commit a crime or to aid in the commission of a crime. Under Pennsylvania law, conspiracy also requires that there be an overt act meant to further the commission of that crime — for example, if the conspiracy is to commit a bank robbery, then an act such as plotting the route of the getaway vehicle or purchasing weapons and ski masks is enough to satisfy this element of conspiracy.
It is also important to note that if you conspire with one person, but that person conspires with others for the same crime, you are considered under Pennsylvania law to have conspired with everyone involved, even if you were not aware of the other people’s role in the crime. This can result in more charges of conspiracy and harsher penalties.
Penalties and Defenses for Conspiracy
Conspiracy in Pennsylvania is punishable according to the crime that was attempted or completed as a result of the conspiracy. Thus, if you were conspiring to commit burglary, you will be charged with a first degree felony (the punishment for burglary), whether or not the burglary was completed and even if you did not actively participate in the crime.
This shows the real power of a conspiracy charge: in some cases, you can be found guilty of a crime you did not yourself commit, or even a crime that did not ultimately occur at all. This is why you need a knowledgeable Pennsylvania criminal defense lawyer by your side.
Your attorney can help you prepare defenses to your charge of criminal conspiracy, including: a lack of agreement between you and another person; a lack of any substantial step taken towards the crime; and/or a voluntary abandonment of the agreement.
Don’t wait to contact our offices if you have been charged with a criminal conspiracy. These charges are hard to fight on your own, so let our skilled attorneys help you through the process.