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What Types of Acts Can Support the Crime of Conspiracy?

Conspiracy Charges

Under federal law, a wide range of conduct can be part of a conspiracy, which is broadly defined as an agreement between two or more people to violate the law. Under federal law, conspiracies can be formed for various illegal purposes, such as:

  • General conspiracies to commit any federal crime, such as drug trafficking, financial fraud, murder and theft
  • Specific conspiracies related to particular offenses, such as racketeering, terrorism, drug distribution, immigration fraud and civil rights violations
  • Conspiracies to defraud the United States or a federal agency, including agreements to interfere with or obstruct lawful government functions through deceit, trickery or dishonest means

The agreement itself is the crime, regardless of whether the objective is actually achieved. However, there must have been an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. Overt acts need not be illegal in themselves. Rather, they serve as evidence that the agreement was not merely theoretical but actually progressed towards realization. Such acts are categorized as direct or indirect in their effect.

Overt acts that directly further the conspiracy can include:

  • Taking concrete steps towards the planned crime — These are actions like acquiring materials or tools needed, conducting reconnaissance or making logistical arrangements. For example, purchasing weapons for an armed robbery or scouting a bank for a potential heist.
  • Taking steps to conceal the conspiracy — These include destroying evidence, creating false alibis, using encrypted messaging apps or wiping electronic devices after planning a crime.
  • Carrying out preparatory actions — This encompasses activities like recruiting members, assigning roles within the conspiracy or financing the planned crime. Recruiting accomplices or distributing instructions for the planned act could be considered overt acts.

Overt acts that indirectly demonstrate the agreement can include:

  • Communication between conspirators — Texts, emails, phone calls or even seemingly innocuous conversations that advance the conspiracy’s aims can be considered overt acts. Discussing escape routes after a crime or coordinating logistics are examples.
  • Travel or movement in furtherance of the conspiracy — This includes travel to acquire illegal materials, meeting accomplices at locations or visiting the target of the crime.
  • Acts of concealment or silence — Even silence or inaction can constitute an overt act if it is done intentionally to further the conspiracy. An example is a security guard deliberately overlooking a crime committed by co-conspirators.

Only one overt act needs to be proved. However, the act must be committed after the conspiracy agreement is formed. The specific details of a case will determine what constitutes an overt act. While conspiracy charges often carry lower penalties than the underlying federal offense, they can still result in significant prison sentences and fines.

The dedicated Philadelphia federal criminal lawyers at the Law Offices of David Jay Glassman have decades of experience defending clients against federal charges. For a consultation and evaluation of your case, call 215-563-7100 or contact us online.