To prove the elements involved in a Maryland conspiracy case, an agreement must be shown in one of a few ways. In terms of contracts, an individual has to validate an agreement to be able to substantiate it. In the real world, however, an individual does not always have written agreements, for various reasons. These may include not wanting law enforcement to be able to keep track of what an individual does, and that person to want to keep things as quiet and as hidden as possible.
Very frequently, wiretaps are used to intercept phone calls, but that requires a warrant signed by a judge. Sometimes, there are other types of written media, such as text messages or Facebook messages that can be intercepted. Further, there will often be video surveillance of an act, and undercover operatives as well. All of these elements can be used to help prove the agreement. The agreement is fairly simple to establish, because there will often be a recording, a statement, or other form of verification.
However, intent is another factor that needs to be proven. The prosecution has to show that, based upon the circumstances that their acts come into fashion, the individual had intent to carry it out. This could be decided in the way that two people may talk to each other, or the contents of the discussion itself that may establish intent.
The difficulties in a conspiracy charge are trying to prove evidence that may not necessarily be there. There are certain types of evidence in Maryland conspiracy cases that are essential for other charges, that may be missing or insufficient to go forward within conspiracy cases. The main difference in gathering evidence in a Maryland conspiracy case is that there is no “corpus delecti”, or body of the crime. In a murder case, there is a dead body. In a drug case, there are the drugs that were found. In a theft case, an individual has what was stolen. In a conspiracy case, however, there is no body of the crime because the crime was never carried out. That is the main difference.
Hearsay is an out-of-court statement being offered for its truth. Typically, a court will not accept anything said outside of court as something that can prove something inside the courtroom. For example, a person cannot come to court and say, “My next-door neighbor said they saw a person break into that house.” This cannot happen because an individual has the right to confront their accuser, and have that person take the stand and say what they saw. Further, an attorney is entitled to a cross-examination of that person. The only way to address it and be able to bring it up is to have the person there, so that they are subject to cross-examination by the defense.
However, there are exceptions to the hearsay rule. One is the co-conspirator exception when an individual is dealing with a statement. With conspiracies, there are two individuals. One individual could offer statements of the other individual, the co-conspirator, under a few requirements. It has to be a statement offered against the defendant, and it has to be offered against them and made in the course of the conspiracy. It cannot be a statement that occurred after the conspiracy has happened. This would apply, for example, if a third party heard the co-conspirator say, “Move that truck for me. I need to get in there so that I can get into that door,” or something of that nature, where what is being said is in furtherance of the conspiracy.
The co-conspirator hearsay exception makes a big difference in the process of building a defense. This is so because the co-conspirator will frequently, in trying to help themselves, agree to testify against the other person. Because conspiracy charges are classified as an inchoate crime where there is no evidence of the actual crime being committed, just an agreement and the act surrounding it, prosecutors have much more limited evidence to use to prove a case.
In a conspiracy, the only evidence in a Maryland conspiracy case that an attorney has are things that are recorded, and statements or evidence from the co-conspirator, but they are much more limited. This changes the defense drastically because it changes the strength of prosecutor’s case. This can change the way the attorney’s approach the case going forward, and how they fight to keep any such statements out.
There is a difference between a conspiracy and “water cooler talk.” For example, if two people are having a conversation and an armored truck comes by and they discuss how if they could just get that money, their lives would be set, and they spoke of how they would use the money hypothetically, and then walk away, that is not a conspiracy because the truth is those individuals did not intend to carry it out.
Intent is can be difficult to prove, as it is a state of mind and there is no direct evidence. People can only go by what was said, the circumstances, and the surrounding facts. Often, facts are misconstrued when people did not really intend to do something or were just talking about it and the accusations can be unjust. Someone can be charged with a greater conspiracy than just what they might think they are involved with. Frequently, they can be charged and caught up in a conspiracy for which they never anticipated to begin with. They can address what they are culpable for, but they should not be able to be accountable for the greater overarching crime, as they may be unwitting and unknowing participants, depending on the evidence collected.