Rusty and Flint are planning on breaking into the home of a wealthy local councilman. Their first move is to monitor the councilman’s security measures and family schedule. Then they go to a hardware store to buy supplies and pool their money to buy a gun. Both Rusty and Flint can be charged with conspiracy to commit robbery.
According to conspiracy law, criminal conspiracy, a specific-intent crime, is when two or more people agree to commit a criminal act and take steps toward carrying out that act. The criminal act doesn’t have to take place in order for there to be a conspiracy. There are three elements that go into criminal conspiracy. They are the agreement, the intent and the overt act. Each of these must be present in order to create a legally defined criminal conspiracy.
This element is rarely a formal contract drafted between two or more parties, the co-conspirators, to commit a crime. It can be as simple as Rusty saying, “Hey Flint. I’m thinking we should rob Councilman James”, and Flint replying, “Sounds good. Let’s do it”. Or it could be Flint and Rusty planning the robbery over a couple of beers at Happy Hour.
A person’s intentions are a major factor in any conspiracy. Another aspect of criminal intent that holds a lot of weight in court is the mental state of the alleged co-conspirators. All parties involved have to be proven to intend to agree to be part of the crime and share the common goal of committing a legally prohibited act.
It is important to note that having knowledge that a crime may happen doesn’t make you part of the criminal conspiracy. So if Rusty tells his friend, Grady, that he and Flint are going to rob the councilman, Graady is not part of the criminal conspiracy. But if Grady takes on the role of look out or helps Rusty and Flint detail the councilman’s schedule, Grady becomes one of the co-conspirators.
The Overt Act
Depending on your state’s laws, one of the conspirators has to take action to materialize the crime. This means that steps must be taken to help make the crime reality. So, either Flint or Rusty would have to purchase rope for the purpose of binding the councilman or equipment to circumvent the security system. This is the point where just talking becomes conspiracy. It should be noted that it is not a criminal offense for Rusty and Flint to talk about how they would rob a wealthy councilman. As long as neither of them take steps towards making the robbery a reality, there is no conspiracy.
Should Rusty and Flint discuss robbing a local councilman, take action to commit the robbery by casing their victim and purchasing the necessary supplies, these two partners in crime have committed criminal conspiracy. Being charged with criminal conspiracy is a serious offense. And the severity of the penalty will depend on whether the alleged crime is a misdemeanor or federal offense. Criminal conspiracy charges will require a knowledgeable attorney to navigate the process and protect a defendant’s rights.