Chicago Federal Crime Lawyer
Conspiracy charges can be used to cover a broad range of crimes and federal prosecutors will often charge multiple defendants with conspiracy for actions stemming from a larger criminal enterprise, such as drug trafficking. A blanket conspiracy charge can result in one or more defendants being held equally accountable, regardless of their actual participation in the alleged crime. If you or someone you know has been charged with a conspiracy crime, you need to contact a knowledgeable Chicago criminal attorney right away.
Proving a Conspiracy Charge
Conspiracy charges differ from other criminal charges since it’s not necessary to prove that the crime was actually committed. Instead, prosecutors are only required to prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt in order to secure a conviction for conspiracy:
- There was an agreement between two or more people to commit a criminal act.
- The individuals involved in the alleged conspiracy were aware of the plan to commit a crime and intended to carry it out.
- At least one of the individuals involved in the conspiracy carried out some overt act towards the commission of the crime.
It’s important to note that in cases involving a drug conspiracy, the overt act element is not required. Prosecutors only need to show that there was a conspiracy, that you knew about the conspiracy and that you intended to join in. These are serious charges and you need an experienced attorney to defend you in your conspiracy charge.
Penalties for a Conspiracy Conviction
Defendants may face conspiracy charges in addition to or independent of other criminal charges. Conspiracy charges may be brought at the federal or state level in connection with a number of different offenses, including:
- Business fraud
- Internet crimes
- Drug trafficking
- Drug possession
- Mail or wire fraud
- Tax fraud
- Medicaid or health care fraud
- Unlawful firearms possession
Conspiracy can be charged as a misdemeanor or felony offense, depending on the nature of the underlying crime. The penalties for a conspiracy conviction typically depend on the type of crime involved. For example, a conspiracy charge involving a non-violent crime such as bribery or illegal betting may result in a penalty of up to five years in prison.
In some cases, you may receive the same penalty for a conspiracy conviction as you would if you had actually committed the crime. This is particularly true for defendants accused of conspiracies involving drug trafficking, racketeering, terrorism or white-collar crimes. Certain conspiracy crimes carry lengthy penalties and hefty fines. For example, a single conviction for a RICO offense (racketeering) can lead to a prison term of up to 20 years as well as a fine of up to $250,000. A sentence of life in prison may be levied if the racketeering conspiracy resulted in a murder.
Defending a Conspiracy Charge
Defending a conspiracy charge can be more challenging than raising a defense against other crimes. Chicago-based federal defense lawyer Michael Schmiege handles conspiracy cases throughout Illinois and the United States. He will evaluate the details of your case and help you to develop the strongest defense possible. Examples of possible defense to conspiracy include:
- “Mere presence” – A mere presence defense means that while you may have known about the conspiracy and been present when it was discussed, you were never an actual participant.
- Lack of knowledge – Even though you committed acts that promoted or advance criminal activity you were unaware that a crime was being committed.
- Withdrawal – You initially participated in the conspiracy but abandoned the criminal act before it was completed
Contact a Chicago criminal defense lawyer from our firm today for help!