In its simplest terms, criminal conspiracy is an agreement or plan between two or more people, to commit a crime. However, the details of the crime are far more complicated. Misdemeanor or felony charges may apply, and there are subtle differences between Federal law and North Carolina state laws regarding conspiracy. Therefore, the key to your defense is working with a Charlotte conspiracy lawyer who can turn the challenges into advantages in your defense.
If you’ve been arrested for conspiracy to commit a crime, the federal lawyers at Randall & Stump, PLLC can help you fight the charges against you. We know what it takes for the prosecution to convict you, which means we’re well-versed in the ways to defend your interests. To schedule a free consultation of your case, contact us today at (980) 237-4579.
Though the specific language differs slightly between the federal and state definitions of conspiracy, the basic form of the crime involves an agreement by two or more people to commit a crime. You could be charged with conspiracy if the agreement is to complete a lawful act, but through unlawful conduct.
North Carolina provides three essential elements of conspiracy that a prosecutor must prove to convict you:
- You and at least one other individual created an agreement
- The subject of the agreement was to commit a criminal offense
- You and your co-conspirators had intent to carry out the crime at the time you made the agreement
The elements of conspiracy to defraud the United States under federal law are slightly different. Under 18 U.S.C. § 371, there must still be at least two people involved in a conspiracy to:
- Commit any offense against the U.S.
- Defraud the U.S. or any government agency
In addition, the federal statute requires that the conspirators do some act to “effect the object” of the conspiracy. It’s true that these distinctions are quite subtle, but they’re also extremely significant. For this reason, it’s essential to work with a knowledgeable Charlotte conspiracy defense lawyer who has experience in both federal and state conspiracy cases.
Common Conspiracy Charges
At the core of a conspiracy case is an agreement with another person to commit a crime, with the focus on the agreement instead of the offense. Therefore, many different types of criminal conspiracy charges can result when you reach an accord to commit the underlying offense, including:
- Fraud conspiracies
- Conspiracy to commit burglary
- Conspiracy related to obstruction of justice
- Conspiracy to commit murder
- Robbery conspiracy
- Conspiracy to sell drugs
- Federal conspiracy offenses
Conspiracy Sentencing Guidelines
Under North Carolina General Statutes (NCGS) § 14-2.4, punishment for a conviction for conspiracy to commit a felony drops the penalties down by one classification level from the offense you allegedly conspired to commit. This system applies to all felonies, unless another classification is clearly stated in the relevant statutory provision that defines the crime. The main exception applies to class A or class B1 Felonies, which both become a class B2 Felony. In addition, if you conspired to commit a class B2 felony, you will face class C felony charges.
As an example, If you conspired to commit a class A felony, your potential class B2 felony punishment would be 94 – 393 months in prison, fines, collateral consequences, and more.
At the low end of the felony scale, a class I felony is reduced to a class 1 misdemeanor. Like felony classifications, the system for penalties drops misdemeanors down a level. One exception is for class 3 misdemeanor offenses. If you conspired to commit an offense at that level, it would be charged as such.
For federal conspiracy charges related to defrauding the United States, a conviction could lead to imprisonment for up to five years, along with a fine. The amount depends on multiple factors, but it may far exceed what you’d expect under state law. Due to the complexity of federal and NC state sentencing guidelines for conspiracy charges, it’s important to work with a lawyer who has experience in this area of the law.
How Can an Attorney Help?
Retaining legal counsel to represent you is as critical with conspiracy charges as it is with any other criminal matter. Two defenses your lawyer may employ include:
- Defending the Conspiracy Charges – You may have grounds to contest the existence of an agreement, the criminal nature of the agreement, and acts to further the completion of the crime. Recall that the agreement is at the foundation of the crime, regardless of whether you actually achieve the objectives of it.
- Defending the Underlying Crime – Conspiracy is a unique crime, in which you can be charged with criminal conduct and the agreement to commit it. You can be arrested for both drug conspiracy and drug charges, so your conspiracy attorney must be prepared to defend you on two fronts.
Though these aspects of a conspiracy case are complicated, some other components of your defense may be familiar. As with any other case, the prosecution must prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a very high burden for conspiracy charges. Constitutional defenses related to your civil rights may also apply, including protections against unlawful search and seizure.