Federal conspiracy charges are serious crimes prosecuted in federal courts. This page defines conspiracy, explains federal conspiracy charges, and how a conspiracy defense attorney can help. We also provide detailed examples of federal conspiracy crimes. If you have any questions about federal conspiracy law, you have come to the right place!
Contact the Zoukis Consulting Group if you are facing federal conspiracy charges. Our network of conspiracy lawyers can answer your questions and defend you against these federal charges.
Table of contents
- What is Conspiracy?
- Define Conspiracy
- What Does Conspiracy Mean?
- Federal Conspiracy Charges
- Federal Conspiracy Statute (18 U.S.C. § 371)
- Conspiracy Crime Examples
- Defenses to Federal Conspiracy Charges
- Federal Conspiracy Charges Sentencing
- Federal Conspiracy Investigations
- Federal Conspiracy Defense Attorney
What is Conspiracy?
A federal conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime. To prove conspiracy, the government must show an agreement between co-conspirators and that steps were made to further the scheme. Simply discussing committing a crime is not enough – there must be an agreement and some action taken to advance the conspiracy.
The federal conspiracy statute (18 U.S.C. § 371) makes it a crime to conspire to commit any federal crime. The government does not have to show that a defendant actually committed the crime. Prosecutors only need to establish an agreement to commit the crime, and actions were taken to further the conspiracy.
While conspiracy is defined broadly, conspiracy lawyers review the underlying evidence to determine if a federal crime has been committed. When overzealous prosecutors cast too broad of a net, a federal conspiracy attorney makes them prove their case.
Conspiracy is defined as when two or more people agree to commit a crime together. The government must show an agreement between two or more people and that a step toward the conspiracy’s completion took place.
Simply talking about committing a federal crime is not enough. There needs to be (1) an agreement and (2) some action to further the conspiracy.
Speak with a federal conspiracy defense lawyer to understand conspiracy’s definition. Your conspiracy defense attorney can answer your questions and find ways to mitigate your sentencing liability.
What Does Conspiracy Mean?
Conspiracy is an extensive term and can include many activities. Generally, conspiracy defined means that two or more people have agreed to commit a crime and work together towards that goal. However, keep these essential aspects in mind:
- Simply stating a specific intent to commit a crime is insufficient. There must be a conspirators’ agreement and additional action to advance the plot.
- The government does not need to prove that the defendant committed the crime. All required are an agreement and specific steps to complete the offense.
- Federal defendants can be charged with conspiracy even if they don’t commit the crime. Additionally, co-conspirators’ actions can be attributed to all conspiracy participants if the activities are reasonably related or foreseeable.
Federal conspiracy charges are complicated offenses that prosecutors can easily prove. If you are under investigation for a conspiracy crime, immediately contact a federal conspiracy attorney. Your lawyer can review your case to determine the best defense approach.
Federal Conspiracy Charges
Federal conspiracy charges can be filed for any federal crime. This means that defendants can be charged with conspiracy even if they do not actually commit the crime.
For example, defendants can be charged with robbery conspiracy if they are gang members and agree to commit a robbery. If someone else in the gang commits the robbery, all co-conspirators can be charged with conspiracy because they agreed to commit the crime and made a substantive step toward its conclusion.
Likewise, defendants caught with drugs can be charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs even if they did not actually distribute the drugs. The government needs to show an agreement to distribute the drugs and steps in furtherance of the conspiracy.
Federal conspiracy charges are serious and can carry significant penalties. If you are charged with federal conspiracy, you need an experienced conspiracy defense attorney on your side. Your federal criminal defense lawyer can define conspiracy, its elements, and what to do next.
Federal Conspiracy Statute (18 U.S.C. § 371)
The federal conspiracy statute is defined in 18 U.S.C. § 371. This statute prohibits conspiracies to commit federal crimes. Due to the statute’s breadth, it covers a wide range of schemes. The federal conspiracy statute can be used to prosecute any type of federal crime, including white-collar crimes, drug crimes, and terrorism.
There are two primary elements of conspiracy:
- An agreement to commit a federal crime
- An overt act in furtherance of the federal conspiracy
The agreement does not have to be formal or written. It can be oral or implied from the actions of co-conspirators. The government does not have to prove that the co-conspirators had a detailed or secret plan or knew all of the conspiracy details. The government only has to prove that there was an agreement to commit a federal crime and that at least one conspirator took some action in furtherance of the conspiracy.
Conspiracy Crime Examples
Federal conspiracy law prohibits conspiring to commit any federal crime. As such, federal prosecutors often use conspiracy law expansively. This can result in facing charges for only tangentially related conspiracies and not direct conduct.
Common examples of federal crimes that can be charged as conspiracies include:
- Federal Fraud Offenses
- Federal Financial Crimes
- Bank Fraud
- Drug Trafficking Conspiracy
- Immigration Fraud
- Mail Fraud
- Money Laundering
- Securities Fraud
- Tax Evasion
- White Collar Crimes
- Wire Fraud
Each of these types of federal conspiracy charges is discussed below. Click on the links to read more about each type of underlying crime. Contact the Zoukis Consulting Group for more information about federal conspiracy charges. Our network of conspiracy defense attorneys can answer your questions and develop a strategic defense approach.
Federal Drug Conspiracy Charges
The federal drug conspiracy statute prohibits conspiracies to distribute drugs. This statute applies to all drugs, including illegal drugs, prescription drugs, and controlled substances.
Federal prosecutors must prove that the defendant agreed to distribute drugs and knew that the conspiracy involved drugs to secure a conviction. Defendants don’t need to be involved in narcotics distribution. Simply agreeing to help with the distribution is enough for a conviction.
Due to the draconian nature of federal drug offenses, you should hire a federal conspiracy lawyer at the first sign of trouble. Contact the Zoukis Consulting Group today for help.
Federal Wire Fraud Conspiracy
The federal wire fraud conspiracy law prohibits conspiracies to commit wire fraud. Federal prosecutors must establish that the defendant agreed to commit wire fraud and knew that the conspiracy involved wire fraud. Criminal defendants don’t have to be involved in the wire fraud scheme to be convicted. Federal prosecutors merely need to show that they knew of the conspiracy and aided it.
Federal Money Laundering Conspiracy Charges
The federal money laundering conspiracy statute prohibits conspiracies to commit money laundering. Prosecutors must show that the defendant agreed to engage in money laundering. Additionally, prosecutors must show the defendant knew about the money laundering agreement for a conviction under this statute.
The defendant does not have to participate in the actual commission of money laundering to be convicted. Prosecutors only need to show that the defendants had knowledge of the conspiracy and made a substantive step toward its completion.
Federal Tax Evasion Conspiracy Charges
The federal tax evasion conspiracy statute prohibits two or more people from conspiring to commit tax evasion. This could include an individual and their accountant agreeing to hide assets or otherwise misreport income.
As with other federal conspiracy crimes, the government must prove there was an agreement to commit tax evasion and that a participant took one step in furtherance of the crime. Convictions can be obtained even if the defendant was not involved in tax evasion; merely agreeing to the crime and making a step toward its furtherance is enough.
Federal Immigration Conspiracy
Federal immigration fraud is a broad term that encompasses many fraudulent immigration activities. Lying about immigration history to gain entry into the United States is an example of immigration fraud. It also includes phony marriages to immigrate, invalid migration services, and alien smuggling.
Federal conspiracy law prohibits conspiracies to commit immigration-related offenses. Federal prosecutors must show that two or more people agreed to engage in immigration fraud and took a step toward its completion to bring federal immigration conspiracy charges.
Defenses to Federal Conspiracy Charges
Numerous defenses are available to federal conspiracy charges. This significantly depends on the underlying facts and circumstances of the offense.
- No Agreement: The most common defense to federal conspiracy charges is that the defendant did not actually agree to commit a crime. While these agreements can be oral or implied from the co-conspirators’ actions, the government does not have to prove that the co-conspirators had a detailed plan or knew all of the conspiracy details.
- Withdrawal from Conspiracy: Federal conspiracy defendants may be able to demonstrate they stopped participating in the criminal conspiracy early enough to avoid being guilty of the crime. Defendants must show that they had a voluntary “change of heart” and decided to cease participation in the offense. To be successful, defendants must show that they took affirmative action to withdraw from the conspiracy and that the withdrawal was timely and communicated to the other co-conspirators.
- Entrapment: Defendants can also argue that they were entrapped by law enforcement. This requires a showing that law enforcement induced them to commit a crime and otherwise would not have committed it.
- Impossibility: The impossibility defense is rarely employed but remains a viable option. This defense argues that either the conspiracy couldn’t be fulfilled or that the conspiratorial conduct did not amount to a crime. If the underlying behavior isn’t against the law, a person can’t be convicted of conspiracy to commit it.
- Lack of Knowledge: Another legal defense to federal conspiracy charges is lack of knowledge. Federal prosecutors must show that members of the conspiracy had actual knowledge of the conspiracy to be accountable for it. When there is no meeting of the minds, there is no agreement to conspire.
- Statute of Limitations: The statute of limitations is another defense to federal conspiracy charges. The statute of limitations is the government’s time limit to bring charges. For federal conspiracy charges, the statute of limitations is five years. If federal prosecutors don’t bring charges within five years of the last overt criminal act to further the conspiracy, they can’t charge the defendant with federal conspiracy.
Federal Conspiracy Charges Sentencing
Federal conspiracy sentencing depends on the underlying facts and the defendant’s criminal history. Since the federal Sentencing Guidelines are advisory and not mandatory, federal judges have significant discretion in sentencing. However, federal judges usually sentence defendants within the range recommended by the Sentencing Guidelines.
The punishment for a federal conspiracy conviction depends on the underlying crime. For example, if the underlying federal offense is a felony, the maximum sentence for the conspiracy is five years in prison. If the underlying crime is punishable by life in prison or death, the maximum punishment is 20 years.
The penalty for conspiracy under federal law is extremely harsh. A defendant convicted of 18 U.S. Code § 371 can face up to five years in federal prison and up to $250,000 in fines. Criminal organizations can be fined up to $500,000.
However, defendants receiving a sentencing enhancement for a leadership role risk significantly more draconian sentences. Similarly, harsher punishments are possible depending on the underlying crime. For example, terrorism conspiracies, violent conspiracies, and sex crimes conspiracies tend to receive far harsher penalties.
Federal Conspiracy Investigations
Federal law enforcement agencies investigate conspiracies to violate federal law. For example, the following agencies commonly investigate conspiracy crimes:
- Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI)
- Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA)
- Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
- Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
These agencies have extensive resources and experience investigating federal crimes. They often use undercover agents, wiretaps, and surveillance to gather evidence against defendants. Likewise, they often define conspiracy broadly to cast a wide net.
Federal law enforcement agencies use various methods to investigate conspiracy cases, including:
- Covert Surveillance
- Undercover Agents
If you are charged with a federal conspiracy crime, it is crucial to have a conspiracy defense attorney who understands these laws and knows how these cases are investigated. Contact the Zoukis Consulting Group today to understand your best next steps.
Federal Conspiracy Defense Attorney
If you are under investigation or charged with federal conspiracy, it is vital to have a conspiracy defense attorney with experience defending these cases. Your attorney can provide legal advice and explain the penal code’s elements.
Federal conspiracy defense attorneys have extensive experience defending federal conspiracy charges. They know how to argue the defenses listed above and may be able to secure dismissed or reduced charges.
It is essential to contact a federal conspiracy defense attorney as soon as possible after your arrest. Early intervention can help reduce charges, increase the likelihood of dismissal, and otherwise reduce your criminal sentencing liability.
Don’t allow federal law enforcement to define your conduct as conspiracy. Hire an experienced conspiracy defense firm to protect your rights.
Published Feb 15, 2022 by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA | Last Updated by Christopher Zoukis, JD, MBA on Aug 7, 2023 at 12:24 am