It can be fairly easy to get caught up in a conspiracy charge when a person had nothing to do with the conspiracy. It may be that the person is associated with people involved in criminal activity. Conspiracy charges can be overused by prosecutors.
Sometimes they use conspiracy charges to implicate someone to get them to flip and testify against a person higher up in the criminal activity. Conspiracy charges can be dangerous and there is a risk that prosecutors can overreach with those charges. A person needs experienced legal counsel to be aggressive in fighting back on the charges.
Conspiracies are agreements, either explicit or implicit, between multiple parties to commit or attempt to commit a criminal act. A conspiracy is a group of people working together to break the law. There are conspiracies to commit violent crimes such as murder, robbery, fraud, and white-collar crime.
Conspiracy is a crime that federal prosecutors like to use for a variety of reasons. The key point is that everybody becomes liable for the conduct of anyone in the conspiracy. For example, in a murder crime, even if a person did not shoot anyone, they can still be held accountable for the murder if they are part of the conspiracy.
Conspiracy is exempt from hearsay restrictions that prohibit the use of statements others make because of the hearsay laws. A co-conspirator involved in the conspiracy can provide statements against another person involved in the conspiracy.
An overt act is an outward act that moves the conspiracy forward. In a murder situation, it might be supplying the gun. In a fraud situation, it might be supplying bank information or accounting information or helping the select targets to involve in a Ponzi scheme.
Conspiracy charges can include emails and explicit written agreements or explicit conversations about the conspiracy. This is especially true in wiretap cases where someone has a conversation that can be used against everybody involved in the conspiracy.
Prosecutors like conspiracy charges when they can use them in cases with multiple parties. They can be aggressive in bringing conspiracy charges against a group of people they think committed or were involved in some kind of criminal activity.
Many times the underlying charges are the key to the real exposure a person faces. The maximum DC federal conspiracy penalties for criminal conspiracy is five years in prison, but this can be compounded by state and federal violations. The drivers of the sentence for conspiracy charges are the underlying crimes.
The sentencing guidelines are driven by factors that are closely related to the underlying charge. With embezzlement, one of the biggest factors in determining the guidelines is the amount of money that was embezzled. The amount of money also factors into the conspiracy sentencing.
Aggravating factors are connected to the underlying crime. When a person is in a conspiracy involving a Ponzi scheme, the size of the Ponzi scheme is a major factor in the sentence the person faces. If the Ponzi Scheme involved hundreds of people as opposed to less than 20, that is more of an aggravating factor. The same is true when the amount of money lost is in the millions of dollars rather than thousands of dollars. Another big factor is a person in a position of trust taking advantage of vulnerable populations.
The federal sentencing guidelines apply to all federal courts across the country. If a person is in the US District Court in DC or Maryland, the applied guidelines are the same. The exact sentence to be imposed can vary from judge to judge and every case is unique. Some factors can push a judge towards leniency or a harsher sentence than the guidelines recommend.
When more than one person plans a burglary, the person who committed the burglary can be charged with burglary and conspiracy. In a white-collar context, a person could be charged with wire fraud and conspiracy. DC federal conspiracy penalties are often brought with a variety of other criminal charges.