Federal prosecutors are often faced with a challenging prospect in difficult cases where they lack solid evidence. One favorite tool for some federal prosecutors to use to maximize sentencing or win a case is to charge someone with federal conspiracy. Federal conspiracy is a broad term used to describe crimes that were planned, but may or may have been committed. A federal conspiracy charge allows the government to indict a large number of people connected to one or more crimes.
What is Federal Conspiracy?
Federal conspiracy is defined under the statute 18 USC 371. The statute makes planning to commit a federal crime illegal. This doesn’t mean you are charged with federal conspiracy because you committed a crime. It means that you worked with other people to conspire to commit a federal crime.
According to the statute, it is illegal for more than two people to plan to commit a federal crime or defraud the federal government. Also, you or a co-conspirator must go a step further in the planning of the federal crime. This means they try to make the crime happen. The federal government cause this an overt act.
A Federal Prosecutor Must Prove Conspiracy Occurred
A federal prosecutor isn’t required to prove you or a co-conspirator committed a federal crime. They aren’t required to show that you took an overt step to make the crime reality. Another thing a federal prosecutor isn’t obligated to prove is that you and any alleged co-conspirator had a written or oral agreement to commit a federal crime.
Here is what a federal prosecutor is required to prove to convict you on federal conspiracy charges:
• You entered into an agreement with one or more persons.
• That agreement was to commit a federal crime or defraud the government.
• A co-conspirator to a step to initiate the plan. That initial step was an overt step to commit a federal crime or defraud the government.
In the second element, where a prosecutor must prove the intent to commit a federal crime, the prosecutor explains the crime. There are many common conspiracy crimes such as:
• Restrain trade
• Federal health care offense
• Submit one or more fraudulent claims to a federal agency
• Seditious conspiracy
• Deprive a person of their civil rights
• Drug trafficking
Sentencing Guidelines for a Federal Conspiracy Conviction
Federal conspiracy has specific punishments. These penalties are found in the sentencing guidelines. These guidelines determine the minimum and maximum imprisonment a person faces if they are convicted of federal conspiracy.
• Criminal penalty outlined under 18 USC 371. This is five years in federal prison, a $250,000 fine or both penalties.
• Criminal penalty for the underlying offense. The term “underlying offense” refers to the crime you did or planned to commit. Thus, the sentence depends on the crime.
• Criminal penalty for misdemeanor offense. If the federal crime or attempt to defraud the government was a misdemeanor offense, you can’t be sentenced to more time that outline in that statute.
The judge could seize your property under forfeiture laws. Another option is to order you to pay restitution.
Defenses to Federal Conspiracy Charges
It may not seem like it, but there are a lot of federal conspiracy defenses. The specific defense used in your case will depend on facts and evidence. One common defense includes withdrawal of the federal conspiracy. This means that you did participate, but you changed your mind and took steps to withdraw from the conspiracy. Other defenses include attacking the elements of the case and innocence.
Contact Our Law Offices for Help with Your Federal Conspiracy Case
Federal conspiracy may seem like a simple case to win without getting legal help because a federal prosecutor has no case. There was no verbal or written agreement. Besides, you’re completely innocent. However, a federal conspiracy case isn’t always as simple. You may be innocent, but the prosecutors will work hard to convince a jury you’re guilty.
Whether you are suspected of or officially indicted on federal charges, contact our law offices. We are experienced in fighting federal conspiracy charges. We understand how to challenge the prosecutor’s evidence at trial and get the case dismissed. Contact us today.
On the local level, conspiracy occurs when two or more individuals plan to commit a crime. That crime could be anything from murder to fraud. A person can go to state prison for committing conspiracy whether the crime actually happened or not. However, the federal government also its own conspiracy statutes. It’s outlined in 18 USC 371.
Title 18 USC 371 Makes it Illegal to Conspire to Plan a Federal Crime
According to 18 USC 371, it’s a crime for two or more people to conspire to plan to commit a federal crime. The statute doesn’t include one specific crime. Instead, it outlines the two broad categories of crimes that one can be accused of conspiring to commit. The categories include any offenses committed against the federal government and crimes to defraud the federal government.
The statute also includes the requirement that at least one person conspiring to commit the alleged federal crime takes an overt step to put the plan in motion. This means that you or one of your alleged co-conspirators tried or actually did act to further the conspiracy.
A federal conspiracy charge can sometimes involve circumstantial evidence or an alleged co-conspirator lying on you for a lighter sentence. If you or a loved one is accused of conspiracy to commit a federal crime, obtain legal counsel pronto.
A Federal Conspiracy Charge doesn’t Require a Written Agreement
The federal government doesn’t need any type of written agreement as proof that you and one or more co-conspirator conspired to defraud or commit a crime. In fact, a prosecutor isn’t required to show you and any alleged co-conspirators met in person or interacted when planning the federal crime.
Instead, a federal prosecutor is required to show you are guilty beyond all reasonable doubt with evidence that support specific elements. These elements are grouped together to define the federal conspiracy charge. Thus, a federal prosecutor must have evidence to support the elements that:
• You and two or more people conspired together.
• The conspiracy was to defraud the government or commit a federal crime.
• You or a fellow co-conspirator took an overt step to make the plan reality.
The Type of Crimes that Result in a Conspiracy Charge
Federal conspiracy charge is the start of something much worse: a subsequent federal charge. This means that in order to conspire with two or more people, you had the intent to commit an actual crime. Otherwise, there would be no conspiracy. The subsequent charge must be a federal crime. It can’t be a state or local crime. The types of federal crimes that would result from conspiracy charge are:
• Any fraud crime
• Restraining trade
• Health care offense
• Violating RICO
• Depriving an individual of their civil rights
• Submitting any fraudulent claim
• Seditious conspiracy
• Violating the Controlled Substances Act (21 USC 841)
• Any offense or attempt to defraud the government not listed
Federal Sentencing Guidelines for Violating 18 USC 371
The federal government has sentencing guidelines a judge must impose on anyone guilty of federal conspiracy. These sentencing guidelines are used to determine the maximum and minimum about of time a person may receive behind bars.
If you or your loved one is convicted of federal conspiracy, this is what you face:
Zero to five years in federal prison for violating Section 371. If you receive no time in federal prison, you may only pay a $250,000 fine. However, the judge can order federal prison time and a fine.
The criminal sentence associated with the underlying crime. Certain crimes such as racketeering, drug trafficking and terrorism require you receive the sentence associated with that crime. This is often more than five years in federal prison. This means that even if you did not commit the underlying crime, you’re punished as though you did it.
Zero to one year in jail. If the federal crime was a misdemeanor, you would receive a misdemeanor sentence. Thus, no prison time. Instead, you may receive one year or less in jail.
We are Your Federal Conspiracy Defense Lawyers
You’ve been accused of federal conspiracy. Now, it’s time to fight the charge. You have specific defenses available such as proving you did not conspire to commit a federal crime, or you changed your mind. Contact us to discuss your conspiracy charge.