Providing Honest, Reliable Business Counsel For 29 Years

Can you be charged with conspiracy even if you did nothing?

On Behalf of | Jul 17, 2023 | Criminal Defense

Conspiracy is sometimes a difficult criminal offense to understand. That’s because conspiring to do something illegal is a crime even if the planned offense wasn’t carried out. It’s considered a crime of intent. 

The severity of the consequences depends on a number of things, including what the planned crime is (for example, fraud vs. murder) and what an individual’s involvement was in the conspiracy. Let’s look a little more closely at the offense.

California law

Under California law, the offense involves at least two people conspiring to commit a crime, to frame another person for a crime or “to procure another to be charged or arrested for any crime.” Further, a person who is convicted of conspiracy to commit a felony “shall be punishable in the same manner and to the same extent as is provided for the punishment of that felony.”

A critical element in a conspiracy is that an “overt act” must be taken toward committing the crime. If a few friends sit around talking casually about robbing the home of someone they know is on vacation but come to their senses and don’t take any steps toward carrying out that robbery (getting a weapon, for example), that’s not a crime.

Say, however, that one of those people buys a gun, goes to the home and then doesn’t go through with the plan because no one else shows up – including the person who was supposed to be the “getaway” driver. It’s still possible that all of the people who planned the robbery could be charged with conspiracy to commit it – even if only one of them took any steps beyond talking about it.

A conspiracy can be based solely on a verbal agreement

A conspiracy doesn’t have to involve a written agreement or diagrammed plan. It can be verbal. However, for a person to be convicted, prosecutors would need to show that they knowingly agreed to participate in the crime – even if they backed out or the crime was never carried out.

It’s not uncommon for those who have been arrested to try to shift the blame to others or to rope in people who had no involvement. Whatever the circumstances, if you’re facing conspiracy charges, law enforcement officials and prosecutors may be relying on what other people are telling them about your alleged involvement. It’s crucial to have experienced legal guidance to protect your rights and effectively present your side.