What Is the Crime of Conspiracy?

What Is the Crime of Conspiracy?

A criminal conspiracy takes place when two or more people get together and plan to commit a crime, however, there is more involved when proving that criminal conspiracy has taken place.


First, in order for a person to be guilty of criminal conspiracy, they must have actually meant to agree to commit a crime. Next, when the person agreed to commit a crime with others, they must intend to really do whatever the objective is of the conspiracy.

For example, Mark asks Daniel to help him steal a car. Daniel agrees, but really he has decided to contact the police and report what Mark has asked him to do. In this situation, Daniel would not be guilty of criminal conspiracy because he never intended to really help Mark steal the car.

Overt Act to Further Conspiracy

For a criminal conspiracy to occur, a person must take some action toward carrying out that plan. The action taken does not have to be a crime to further the conspiracy.

For example, if two people plan on robbing a bank, but they never take any action towards actually robbing the bank, this could satisfy the criminal conspiracy, however, most states require that there is at least one overt act taken by at least one of the conspirators, for those involved to be charged with criminal conspiracy.

There Does Not Have to Be a Crime

The crime of conspiracy can be charged whether or not the crime is ever actually carried out.

For example, if two people plan to rob and bank and they go buy ski masks to wear during the robbery, they can be charged with conspiracy to commit bank robbery, even if they never actually rob the bank or even attempt to rob the bank. Buying ski masks is not a crime, but it furthers the conspiracy to commit a crime.

Participation Is Not Required

In most states, persons who helped plan the crime, but did not participate in the actual criminal act, can be given the same punishment as the person who carried out the crime itself. The person who commits the crime can be charged with both the crime and conspiracy to commit the crime.

One or More Crimes Equals One Conspiracy Charge

In criminal conspiracy cases, if the conspiracy involves multiple crimes, those involved will still only be charged with a single act of criminal conspiracy.

For example, if Mark and Joe plan to rob a valuable piece of art from someone's home, then sell the art on the black market and use the money that they receive to invest in an illegal drug deal, even though they conspired to commit three crimes, they will only be charged one act of criminal conspiracy.

Chain and Link Conspiracy

A chain and link conspiracy is a conspiracy in which there are a series of transactions, but only one overall agreement. The different transactions are considered the links in the overall agreement, which is considered the chain.

However, the transactions will only be considered links in a chain if each link is aware that the other links are involved in the conspiracy and each link profits in the success of the overall series of transactions.

For example, Joe smuggles in drugs from Mexico, then sells some of the drugs to Jeff, who then sells it to his street dealer named Milo and Milo sells it to his customers. Joe and Milo have never spoken, therefore there is no agreement between them concerning the selling of the drugs, but because Joe knows that Jeff sells his drugs to a street dealer and Milo knows Jeff buys the drugs from the smuggler, then each of them becomes dependent on the other in order for the entire scheme to work.

Wheel and Spoke Conspiracy

A wheel-and-spoke conspiracy is when one person acts as the wheel and enters into agreements with different people (the spokes) or co-conspirators who have nothing to do with each other.