An agreement between two or more people to commit an illegal act, along with an intent to achieve the agreement's goal. Most U.S. jurisdictions also require an overt act toward furthering the agreement. An overt act is a statutory requirement, not a constitutional one. See Whitfield v. United States, 453 U.S. 209 (2005). The illegal act is the conspiracy's "target offense."
Conspiracy generally carries no penalty on its own. Instead, punishment derives from the illegal acts carried out by the conspiracy. Where one or more members of the conspiracy committed illegal acts to further the conspiracy's goals, all members of the conspiracy may be held accountable for those acts. Where no one has actually committed a criminal act, the punishment varies. Some conspiracy statutes assign the same punishment for conspiracy as for the target offense. Others impose lesser penalties.
Conspiracy applies to both civil and criminal offenses. For example, you may conspire to commit murder, or conspire to commit fraud.
See Inchoate Offenses
Definition from Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary
An agreement by two or more people to commit an illegal act or to commit a legal act using illegal means. Proving conspiracy requires evidence that the parties agreed to the plan before taking action. Proving criminal conspiracy usually requires evidence that some overt action occurred in furtherance of the plan. Some conspiracies may give rise to both criminal and civil charges. For example, a scheme by a group of salesmen to sell used automobiles as new, could be the basis for two actions: criminal prosecution for fraud and conspiracy; and a civil action by victims of the scheme for damages for the fraud and conspiracy.
Definition provided by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary.
August 19, 2010, 5:13 pm