The federal authorities never let go when they sink their teeth into someone in a criminal investigation.
They will use all of the criminal laws found in the U.S. Code to the fullest extent to break up criminal enterprises.
One of their favorite tactics involves slapping a federal conspiracy charge on anyone even remotely involved with the target of the investigation.
The feds do this because they know they can get a co-conspirator to testify against the people they really want to secure a conviction on.
A conviction for conspiracy, or any federal charge, can have devastating consequences for you and your family.
You need to speak with a skilled federal defense lawyer right away if a federal law enforcement agency involves you in their investigation.
What Is the Federal Conspiracy Law?
The primary federal conspiracy statute is 18 U.S.C. 371. It says that a conspiracy against the United States occurs when two or more people conspire to commit an act that is a crime under the U.S. Code.
It is also a crime to conspire to defraud the United States.
However, the crime of conspiracy is not complete unless one of the co-conspirators does an overt act to further the conspiracy.
What does it mean to conspire with someone? A conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit an act.
The essence of conspiracy is the unlawful agreement. Even if you and your partner never committed the crime you planned, you are still part of a conspiracy.
For example, you and a partner hatch a plan to rob a federally insured bank. Talking about it does not amount to the crime of conspiracy.
However, taking a step toward completing the goal forms the crime of conspiracy.
Therefore, casing the bank you want to rob — either alone or with your co-conspirator — forms the basis of the crime of conspiracy under federal law.
Other Examples of Federal Conspiracy Charges
The U.S. Code contains several other conspiracy charges as well.
Some examples of additional federal conspiracy charges include conspiring against:
- Impeding the free exercise of rights (18 USC 241);
- Defrauding the Government concerning claims (18 USC 286);
- Impeding or injuring an officer (18 USC 372);
- Aiding prisoners of war or enemy aliens (18 USC 757);
- Gathering or delivering defense information to assist a foreign government (18 USC 794);
- Drug trafficking and other drug offenses (21 USC 846):
- Injuring a person or property in a foreign country while under U.S. jurisdiction (18 USC 956);
- Kidnapping (18 USC 1201);
- Destroying a boat to defraud an insurance company (18 USC 2271);
- Sedition (18 USC 2384);
- Interfering with armed forces during a time of war (18 USC 2388);
- Destruction of war material (18 USC 2153); and
- Interfering with the production of war material (18 USC 2154).
The U.S. Code contains many other instances of conspiracy.
It’s important to note that the general conspiracy charge found in 18 USC 371 requires an overt act to form the conspiracy, but many of the others do not.
What Are the Federal Conspiracy Penalties?
A federal conspiracy sentence depends on the crime that is the object of the conspiracy.
The penalty for conspiring to commit a crime against the United States is a prison sentence of no more than five years.
Section 371 also indicates that the court may levy a fine in addition to sending the conspirator to federal prison.
However, the maximum sentence for a conspiracy whose object is a misdemeanor carries the same penalty as the misdemeanor.
The potential consequences of conspiracy will depend on the conspiracy charge the government files.
Some conspiracy statutes specify a penalty, while others state that the penalty is the same for conspiracy as it would be for the completed crime.
For instance, conspiracy to commit drug trafficking carries the same prison sentence as drug trafficking.
What Rights Do You Have If the Feds Charged You with Conspiracy?
You always have the right to remain silent and have an attorney present during police questioning.
The Miranda warning applies to federal law enforcement just as it does to local police. Ask for an attorney before giving a statement.
The Department of Justice prosecutes federal crimes. Their lawyers work closely with federal agents to make airtight cases.
The chances are good that they have a lot of evidence against you if they file criminal charges. However, that does not mean you are automatically guilty.
You have Due Process rights to a fair trial judged by a jury of your peers. You also have the right to confront witnesses who testify against you and call witnesses on your behalf.
However, prosecutors often build cases against low-level conspirators to get to the top of the criminal enterprise.
Federal prosecutors may “proffer” you to find out what information you have that can help them.
In exchange for your information and testimony, they would likely give you a good plea deal for your role in the conspiracy.
Your lawyer will negotiate the terms of your agreement with the prosecutor on your behalf.
Contact an Experienced Federal Defense Attorney in Dayton, OH Today
Fighting a case in the U.S. District Court takes a tremendous amount of knowledge, skill, and experience.
Do not wait and see what happens before calling. Contact our office online or call (937) 222-1515 today for a free consultation.
We have more than 50 years of collective experience fighting for our client’s rights.
We will give you the time and attention you need to handle your legal issues successfully.