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Understanding Federal Conspiracy Charges in North Carolina

Federal prosecutors can charge a person with conspiracy to commit a crime when there is evidence that they agreed to commit a crime or engage in an illegal act with another person. Many federal statutes require that overt action be taken toward the completion of the illegal act for a prosecutor to convict a defendant of conspiracy. However, no overt action is required when it comes to federal drug conspiracy cases.

Federal prosecutors frequently use conspiracy as a catch-all charge. Even when a defendant cannot be tied to the scene of a federal crime, they may be punished for the outcome of the crime if they were part of the conspiracy to commit the crime. As with any other criminal charge, prosecutors must prove that the defendant committed every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.

Common Types of Conspiracy Charges

There are several different types of conspiracy charges. Conspiracy to commit a crime is a broad criminal offense because it can involve many different areas of criminal activity. However, some of the most common types of crimes include conspiracy charges involving the following:

  • Robbery
  • Murder
  • Burglary
  • Conspiracies related to obstruction of justice
  • Illegal firearm sales
  • Prostitution and sex trafficking charges
  • White-collar crimes, including pyramid schemes
  • Drug crimes, including possession with the intent to distribute and drug trafficking charges
  • A wide range of fraud charges, including false pretense, forgery, embezzlement, and credit card theft
The Elements of the Crime of Conspiracy to Commit a Crime

First and foremost, the criminal charge of conspiracy requires an agreement between at least two people to commit a crime or engage in illegal activity. One of the parties cannot be a government agent. For example, if an undercover officer or investigator pretends to be a minor to uncover criminal activity, the defendant cannot be charged with conspiracy. If an undercover investigator pressured you to agree to commit a crime with them, you cannot be charged with conspiracy.

Prosecutors need to prove that you were knowingly participating in the planning of a crime. Knowing that other people may commit a crime but not being involved with the actual planning of the crime is not considered participation. The federal prosecutor must prove that you knowingly associated with other conspirators so you could participate in the criminal act that was the purpose of the conspiracy.

Finally, even though you may have agreed to take part in criminal activity and help plan a crime, you still have the opportunity to withdraw from the conspiracy. If you back out and say you were not going to take part in the criminal activity before the illegal act occurred, you likely have a solid defense. When you meet with a criminal defense attorney, the attorney will begin investigating your case and determine which legal defense strategy will work best for you.

The Penalties for Conspiracy Charges

Under North Carolina statutes, the sentencing for conspiracy charges and their penalties depend on the underlying crime. The same is true for federal conspiracy charges. However, conspiracy charges are taken extremely seriously. For example, penalties for conspiracy to defraud the United States can lead to a conviction of up to five years in prison and a significant fine. The amount of the prison sentence and fine depends on multiple factors. Generally, the more serious the underlying criminal activity, the more severe the penalties for conspiracy charges.

For example, conspiracy to commit murder has much heavier penalties than conspiracy to commit a drug crime. One thing is for certain, however. Sentencing guidelines for North Carolina and federal conspiracy charges are different; federal conspiracy charges carry much harsher penalties. If you have been charged with conspiracy, an attorney can help you understand whether you have been charged at the state or federal level and what kind of penalties you may face if you are convicted.

Discuss Your Case With a Skilled Criminal Defense Attorney

As you can see, conspiracy to commit a crime is a complex criminal charge. Cases involving this charge can be difficult because federal conspiracy law is complicated. If you or your loved one have been charged with conspiracy to commit a crime, it is crucial that you discuss your case with a skilled attorney. The Charlotte-based defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC, can help explain why you have been charged with conspiracy. We can also begin developing a legal strategy to get those charges dismissed or reduced significantly. Contact us to schedule an initial consultation.