California Penal Code (PC) section 182
Under California Penal Code (PC) section 182, a criminal conspiracy takes place when one,
1. Agrees with one or more other people to commit a crime, and
2. One of them commits an overt act in furtherance of that agreement i.e., in furtherance of the conspiracy.
Any member of the conspiracy may commit the overt act...which doesn't need to be criminal in and of itself. All that is required is for the act to be in furtherance of the conspiracy, and be performed before the commission of the agreed upon offense. Two examples of a conspiracy are if two people agree and plan to rob a store and one obtains the black masks, or when three people agree to poison one's wife and one obtains the poison from their employer.
Penal Code 182 PC California's
conspiracy law sets forth the specific conspiracies for which
you may be prosecuted. These include the following:
1. conspiracy to commit any crime (this is the catch-all conspiracy clause and includes any California crime, including misdemeanors, but it does not apply to
federal crimes, as those violations will be prosecuted under federal law);
2. conspiracy to accuse another person falsely or maliciously of committing or participating in a crime (this clause is intended for situations where two or more people attempt to "frame" an innocent person for a crime or make false allegations that actually lead to an arrest and formal charges),
3. conspiracy to initiate or maintain a fraudulent lawsuit,
4. conspiracy to cheat and defraud another person out of money or property
5. conspiracy to commit an act that is against public welfare or that perverts or obstructs justice. California courts have held that the following crimes are the type, but are not all, the offenses that fit under this type of conspiracy:
bribery, perjury, falsifying evidence, public officials failing to enforce criminal laws, and acts of corruption by attorneys and/or judges could all qualify under this section, and
6. a conspiracy to commit any crime against
a) the President or Vice President,
b) the Governor of any state,
c) any U.S. judge, or
d) any U.S. Secretary.
The type of conspiracy you are convicted of will determine your punishment. Some types of conspiracies are straight felonies while others may be charged as misdemeanors or felonies. Many times, the penalties you face for your participation in a conspiracy will also be based on the penalties that may be imposed in connection with the underlying offense. However, it must be remembered that if convicted you will face penalties both for conspiracy and for the underlying offense.
Members of a
conspiracy are criminally responsible for all of the crimes
that are committed by any of the co-conspirators if they are
committed in furtherance of the conspiracy. This is the case
even if some of the members aren't aware of the other crimes.
And it's not at all uncommon for a defendant to be convicted of the conspiracy but acquitted of the underlying crime. It bears repeating that the conspiracy and the crime that is the underlying act of the conspiracy are completely separate...you can be convicted or acquitted of one or both.
You should also be aware that if the underlying crime is a crime of moral turpitude or another deportable crime, you could face deportation / removal even if you are a legal alien or immigrant.
Penal Code 182 PC California's conspiracy law sets forth different penalties for different types of conspiracies.
Conspiracy against a government official
If you are convicted of conspiring to commit a crime against any of the officials mentioned above under Penal Code 182 PC, you face a felony, punishable by five, seven or nine years in jail.
2. Conspiracy to commit one or more felonies
If you are convicted of committing any other felony you face the same penalties that are imposed in connection with that felony.18 This means that if, for example, you are convicted of conspiracy to commit rape, you face three, six or eight years in the state prison which is the punishment for rape.
If you are convicted of
conspiring to commit two or more different felonies...all of
which are part of the same conspiracy...you face the same
penalties as the felony which has the most severe sentence.
3. Conspiracy to commit fraud
If you are convicted of conspiring to cheat and defraud another person out of money or property, you may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the facts of the case, and your criminal history.
If you are convicted of the
misdemeanor, you face up to one year in a county jail and a
maximum $10,000 fine. If you are convicted of the felony, you
face the same fine and 16 months or two or three years in
4. All other acts of conspiracy
All other acts of conspiracy...which would include conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor, are also the type offenses that may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony, punishable in the same manner as described above. The exception to this rule applies to conspiracy to commit identity theft. If you are convicted of this offense, your maximum fine increases to $25,000.
And because all other acts of
conspiracy under this section may be charged as felonies or
misdemeanors, it means that you can actually be convicted of
felony conspiracy even if the underlying offense is a
5. Conspiracy to Murder
If you conspire to commit murder, that is -- possess the specific intent to kill another person unlawfully and commit an act in furtherance of that act -- you face punishment that is equivalent to first-degree murder. This is because conspiracy to commit murder requires a mental state which is equivalent to deliberation and premeditation.
But if you conspire to commit
a crime that is specifically listed in Penal Code 189 PC, such
as rape, arson, kidnapping, robbery, or carjacking, and
someone dies during the commission of the offense either
- in furtherance of the offense, or
- as a foreseeable consequence of the offense...
each of the conspirators may be convicted of first-degree murder pursuant to California's felony-murder rule. And this law applies regardless of whether the killing was intentional, unintentional or accidental but only if the conspirator joined the conspiracy before the fatal blow was inflicted. Therefore, someone who, for example, only joins in the conspiracy after a victim is killed, will not be liable for the murder but may be charged with the remaining charges and/or as an accessory after the fact.
Contact the Lee Law Group for additional information on penalties for this offense.
Contact the Lee Law Group to fight to help get your conspiracy charges dismissed. In fact, there are a variety of legal defenses to a conspiracy charge that we at the Lee Law group could present on your behalf. The following are some of the most common:
There was no agreement
If there was no agreement to commit the offense, there is no conspiracy. Just because a crime was committed...even when committed by more than one person...it does not necessarily mean that there was a prior "agreement" to commit the offense.
2. There was no overt act
If neither you nor any of your co-conspirators commits an overt act in furtherance of that robbery, there is no conspiracy. This is because mere thoughts are not criminal...actions are.
3. You withdrew from the conspiracy
Even if you do conspire to commit a crime, you are not guilty of conspiracy if you "truly and affirmatively reject the conspiracy and communicate that rejection" to your co-conspirators. Warning, in order to be absolved of any criminal liability, you must communicate your withdrawal before someone commits an overt act in furtherance of the crime. If you wait until after someone commits an overt act to withdraw from the conspiracy, you will still be charged with the conspiracy but will not be held liable for any crimes that are committed after you communicated your withdrawal.
4. Mistake of law
California's conspiracy law specifically provides that a conspiracy is an agreement between two people to commit a crime. It therefore stands to reason that if you don't intend to violate the law, you are not guilty of a conspiracy. As a result, a "mistake of law" defense may apply if you honestly and reasonably believed that you were not violating any laws.
5. You were falsely accused
False accusations can come into play in a number of situations. For example, someone may falsely accuse you of conspiring with him or her to commit a crime out of anger, jealousy or revenge.