When two or more people make a plan to commit a criminal act, they are guilty of conspiracy. It only takes one action on behalf of one of the actors to further such crime, for any of the conspirators to be criminally convicted of conspiracy.
Conspiracy is a very simple crime to commit which can induce serious criminal consequences for the conspirators. Even if the “plan" was never carried out, the individuals involved can face harsh penalties if their plan is discovered by law enforcement.
Conspiracy charges can arise whenever two or more people make an agreement to commit virtually any unlawful act. It is not necessary for the crime to ever be carried out; merely being in collusion to commit the crime would suffice. For example, if a woman hired a hit man to murder her husband, yet the hit man got cold feet and backed out of the deal, she can be charged with conspiracy to commit murder even though the plan was never completed.
In many crimes, people can face stiffer penalties when conspiracy charges are tacked on to the underlying charges. For example, a person can be charged with distribution of narcotics and separate charges for conspiracy to distribute narcotics. Tacking on conspiracy charges can result in greater penalties and lengthier prison sentencing. Crimes that are frequently charged in connection to conspiracy include: mail and wire fraud, securities fraud, robbery, solicitation to commit a violent crime, conspiracy to impede or injure an officer, RICO charges and much more.
Even people who played a very small role in a conspiracy can be convicted. Conduct that might have been perfectly legal if the person acted alone can become criminalized if it was conducted in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy. If one person had a minor role in the crime, and another one of the actors seriously elevated the crime by committing a serious act, then criminal liability might exist for all members of the scheme, no matter how large or small a role they played.
Conspiracy charges can be as minor as a class B misdemeanor, which could result in just 3 months in jail, or they can be as serious as a class A felony, which would mean life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Even if you committed a felony offense, you could be charged for anywhere from a class A felony charge, to a class I felony, which involves a much lighter punishment. For this reason, it is extremely crucial that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who has handled conspiracy cases. Without the proper defense, you could wind up serving a much greater sentence than you would if you had skilled legal presentation.