Federal Defense Attorney Explains Conspiracy as a Federal Crime

Many defendants believe they can be charged with a crime only if they actually carry out illegal activity personally. The reality is, this is not the case. Federal law punishes conspiracy, which means that a defendant could potentially be charged and convicted simply for making a plan with others to violate the law.

A defendant could also be convicted of all offenses committed by co-conspirators, so if you are involved in a conspiracy in any way, you could be on the hook for everything done by the people who you are working with.

Being charged with conspiracy can have serious consequences. You could face a very lengthy prison sentence and be left with a criminal record. Federal conspiracy charges are more serious than state charges and you need to understand how such cases are investigated and how prosecutors can prove the case against you if you are accused of a conspiracy offense.

Determining how to respond during an investigation and how to deal with charges is complicated, but working with a federal criminal defense lawyer will help you to get the best possible outcome so you can reduce the chances of being convicted of a serious offense. You need a lawyer familiar with federal laws on conspiracy so your attorney can work with you to develop the most strategic response to navigating the federal criminal justice system.

LV Criminal Defense can help. Federal criminal defense attorneys at our team know conspiracy laws inside and out and we have successfully represented many defendants accused of conspiracy or other federal crimes. We will bring our considerable legal knowledge of the federal penal code to your case to help you prepare a response to charges and fight for the best outcomes possible.

To find out more about how our legal team can represent you if you live in Utah, Arizona, Nevada, or California and you have been accused of a federal offense, give us a call today.

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Federal Laws on Conspiracy Crimes

The federal laws that define conspiracy crimes and impose penalties for these offenses are found in 18 U.S. Code Chapter 19. There are three different statutes within this section that address different aspects of federal conspiracy crimes. They include:

  • 18 U.S. Code section 371: This is a broad statute that punishes any attempt to commit an offense or to defraud the United States. According to the relevant statute, you can be charged in any circumstances where you and at least one other person conspire to commit a crime against the United States, to defraud the United States, or to defraud any U.S. agency for any manner or any purpose. You can be convicted only if any one of the people involved in the conspiracy actually do an act in furtherance of the conspiracy. If any action is taken to carry out the conspiracy, all parties involved can be fined and imprisoned for up to five years. This means even if your co-conspirator is the one who acts, you could still be imprisoned. However, if the offense you are conspiring to commit is a misdemeanor offense, the maximum penalty you could face is the sentence that could be imposed for the misdemeanor, which may be less than five years imprisonment.
  • 18 U.S. Code section 372: This statute addresses the crime of conspiracy to impede or injure an officer. Under this statute, if two or more people conspire to prevent a person from accepting or holding an office, trust, or place of confidence, those people can be charged. They can be charged whether they used threats, force, or intimidation to prevent someone from accepting or holding an office, trust, or place of confidence. Defendants can also be charged for using any means to induce any officer of the United States to leave the place where his duties are performed, or if defendants cause injury to an officer’s person or property while that officer is lawfully discharging his duties. Finally, anyone who attempts to or actually injures, molests, hinders, or impedes public officials from the discharge of their official duties can also be charged. The maximum penalty if charged is six years of imprisonment, and/or a fine.
  • 18 U.S. Code section 373: This statute makes it unlawful to solicit a crime of violence. If you have intent to cause someone to commit a felony involving threats of physical force or use of force, and you take actions that suggest that intent or you engage in activities likely to result in unlawful conduct, you can be charged. The statute explains that it is an affirmative defense if you voluntarily prevented the commission of the crime and completely and voluntarily renounced your criminal intent. However, it is not a defense to prosecution if the person who was solicited could not carry out the violent crime.

Remember, the prosecutor has the burden of proving every element of each of these offenses if the prosecutor brings charges against you to try to convict you of a conspiracy offense in violation of federal law.

Federal Laws on Conspiracy to Distribute Drugs

In addition to the general laws prohibiting conspiracy in 18 U.S. Code Chapter 19, many other federal criminal statutes also criminalize specific types of conspiracies. For example, federal drug trafficking laws, laws prohibiting drug distribution, and laws prohibiting unlawful prescribing of controlled substances all make clear that defendants can be charged with these offenses for conspiring to violate laws on controlled substances even without direct involvement with the unlawful narcotics.

18 U.S. Code section 846 stipulates that anyone who conspires to commit offenses defined within the controlled substances act can be penalized as if he had committed the underlying offense.

A defendant can be charged with conspiracy as soon as any overt action is taken in furtherance of that conspiracy, so if you make a plan with any person to manufacture, distribute, or traffic narcotics, you could be charged if that person takes any steps towards carrying out the scheme.

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Penalties you face for conspiracy to distribute drugs will vary depending upon the type of controlled substance you conspired to distribute and the amount of the substance in possession of you or your co-conspirators. In some cases, violating controlled substance laws could result in decades of imprisonment or even life in prison, so you should expect to face serious consequences if you have been accused of conspiring to distribute drugs.

Federal Laws on RICO Conspiracy

Defendants can also face harsh penalties if they are charged with conspiracy under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). RICO penalizes unlawful activities, such as acts of violence of trafficking in controlled substances, that are carried out as part of a pattern of organized criminal activity.

The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act is found in 18 U.S. Code Chapter 96. This Chapter defines prohibited activities and specifies criminal and civil penalties that can be imposed.

In 18 U.S. Code section 1962, prohibited activities under RICO are defined. This statute makes clear that it is unlawful to conspire to violate any of the provisions of the RICO statute, including laws prohibiting threats to collect unlawful debts. Criminal penalties could include 20 years in prison or more under 18 U.S. Code section 1963, so the stakes can be very high when charged with involvement in a RICO conspiracy.

Federal Laws on Conspiracy to Kidnap

Conspiring to kidnap is also a serious federal offense that can lead to decades of imprisonment. The federal statute on kidnapping, 18 U.S. Code section 1201, specifies within Section 1201(c) that whenever two or more persons conspire to violate anti-kidnapping laws and any one of those individuals does any overt act to carry out the plan, each of the co-conspirators can be punished by up to life in prison.

This means if you discuss kidnapping a child for ransom and one of your co-conspirators purchases duct tape to silence the child when the kidnapping takes place, you could potentially be sentenced to a lengthy period of imprisonment for your role in the plot.

A federal defense lawyer can help you to understand, specifically, what kinds of penalties you could be faced with for involvement with a conspiracy to kidnap based on the plot you hatched and the actions you and your co-conspirators have allegedly undertaken.

Federal Laws on Conspiracy to Obstruct Justice

There are several federal laws that prohibit and criminalize obstruction of justice, most of which are found within 18 U.S. Code section 73. Statutes that define crimes that are considered to be obstruction of justice include 18 U.S. code section 1510, which deals with the obstruction of criminal investigations; 18 U.S. Code section 1511, which criminalizes obstructing state or local law enforcement; 18 U.S. Code section 1512, which criminalizes tampering with witnesses or informants; and 18 U.S. Code section 1513, which makes it a crime to retaliate against a witness.

Within these statutes, federal laws make clear that those who conspire to violate the law can be charged for the underlying offense.

For example, 18 U.S. Code section 1512(k) stipulates that any person who conspires to commit an offense under the relevant code section will be subject to the penalties that are prescribed for the commission of the obstruction offense. The exact penalties vary depending upon what types of actions were taken in order to tamper with or silence the witness, so you should talk with your attorney about possible consequences you could face upon conviction.

Federal Laws on Arson Conspiracy

Conspiring to commit arson can also result in imprisonment under statutes within 18 U.S. Code Chapter 40. In fact, 18 U.S. code section 844(i) specifically prohibits using fire or explosives for purposes of damaging, destroying, or attempting to damage or destroy, vehicles, buildings, or other real or personal property.

18 U.S. Code section 844(n) goes on to specify that any person who conspires to commit offenses in chapter 40 can be subject to the same penalties as the individuals who carried out the unlawful acts. There is one exception, though. While the death penalty could be imposed for certain unlawful acts under 18 U.S. Code Chapter 40, a co-conspirator who does not himself engage in conduct that could result in execution cannot be sentenced to the death penalty under conspiracy laws.

Under 18 U.S. Code section 844(i), the offense of arson – or using fire or explosives to damage buildings, vehicles, or other real or personal property – can result in between five years and 20 years of imprisonment in most cases and can result in a fine.

However, if any person, including a public safety officer, is hurt because of the arson, the penalty could include between five and 40 years imprisonment. And, if anyone is killed, the penalty could be life imprisonment – or death for the person who actually set the fire.

While conspiring to commit arson couldn’t result in a death sentence for you if you weren’t the person who actually committed the unlawful act of arson, your involvement in a conspiracy could still lead to life imprisonment if someone is killed because of the crime.

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Getting Help From a Federal Criminal Defense Attorney

Conspiring to commit a crime can result in life-changing penalties when you face federal charges. If you want to ensure that you do everything possible to minimize the chances of a guilty verdict and resulting prison sentence, it is important that you get the right legal help. You should reach out to LV Criminal Defense for assistance navigating the federal criminal justice system and fighting conspiracy charges.

Our firm has represented many defendants charged with federal crimes. We serve clients in Utah, Nevada, California, and surrounding areas and we know federal laws inside and out so we can provide the assistance you need to fight for acquittal or negotiate the most favorable plea deal possible.

To find out more about how our firm can help you to try to protect your future when you’ve been charged with a federal offense, give us a call today.