Conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime in the future. Long before the codification of conspiracy, it was merely an agreement to engage in an illegal act with the intent of carrying out that act.
The crime of conspiracy is prosecuted separately from the criminal act in itself. For example, two investment bankers can conspire to defraud their clients of millions from their investment accounts which they successfully complete. The two suspects can then be charged with conspiracy in addition to fraud which is a common white collar crime.
Although conspiracy charges are frequently charged in conjunction with another crime, it is not necessary for the crime to be completed. In fact, in the state of New York, all that has to be proven is the intent to commit a crime in order for someone to be charged with conspiracy. While some other states require that the person took an actual “step" or overt act to further the crime, New York does not.
There are six different degrees of conspiracy under the New York Penal Code, with the most severe being a Class A felony which carries a maximum punishment of life in prison. For example, if a person over the age of 18 conspired to commit a Class A felony with someone else over the age of 16, they could face life in prison. On the other hand, the lightest degree of conspiracy would be a Class B misdemeanor, which is punishable by six months in jail.
Human beings are no stranger to conspiracy; they have been conspiring against one another for thousands of years. Conspiracy to commit murder has affected every kingdom, government and hierarchy since the beginning of time.
For example, a famous conspiracy took place on July 20th, 1944, when Count Claus von Stauffenberg made an attempt on Hitler’s life. As Chief-of-Staff Army Reserve, the old war hero who met with Hitler on a regular basis and had both the motive and opportunity to assassinate Hitler. Fearful of the Gestapo, Stauffenberg decided to push his plan through to kill Hitler.
On that infamous day, he discretely carried a briefcase into a map room where a meeting was to be held with Hitler and a number of other officers. Inside the briefcase, was a bomb that he strategically placed beneath the table near Adolf Hitler. Unfortunately, an unsuspecting officer picked up the briefcase and took it to the other side of the room. When the bomb went off, the only damage Hitler sustained was a singed uniform and damaged ear drums.
It’s not uncommon for prosecutors to leave certain members of a conspiracy out of conspiracy charges. This typically occurs when the whereabouts of certain members of the conspiracy are unknown, or when their identities are unknown. This can also happen when the prosecutors are only concerned with prosecuting a particular individual. This is especially common when the subject of the indictment is a political figure or an organized crime leader; and the rest of the conspirators are of little public importance.
Conspiracy charges are extremely serious in nature. If you are facing conspiracy allegations, this could be only the beginning of a series of charges brought against you. In some cases, the prosecution will indict someone on conspiracy when they have little else to charge them with, where in others, they tack on conspiracy charges in addition to other charges for a greater prison sentence. Regardless of whether you knew you were a part of a scheme or not or if your role was very small, you are urged to contact an experienced New York City criminal defense attorney who is equipped to handle conspiracy cases. You could be facing from six months in jail to life in prison if you are convicted.