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Former Assistant District Attorney
Former Assistant U.S. Attorney

Is association enough to prove conspiracy?

On Behalf of | Apr 30, 2020 | Federal Crimes

If you learn that prosecutors have charged someone you have talked to in the recent past with a conspiracy to commit a crime, you might feel worried that federal law enforcement may pay you a visit. While you might unknowingly associate with people who turn out to be criminals, it does not mean that the law will count you as part of a criminal conspiracy.

As FindLaw explains, merely associating with people plotting to commit a crime does not automatically include you as part of the conspiracy. For law enforcement to determine that you are conspiring with others in a criminal fashion, they must discover stronger links between yourself and a plan to commit some form of crime.

Offering assistance to a conspiracy

In addition to associating with conspirators, you might hear that they are planning a crime. Hearing about a possible crime is often not enough to involve you in a conspiracy. It is when you begin to cooperate with that conspiracy that the risk of legal consequences increases. Cooperation may include offering a conspiracy material aid, physical help, or expertise to help facilitate their scheme.

For instance, you might participate in a conspiracy by serving as a driver for other conspirators to help carry out their crime. To help a conspiracy commit a white collar crime, you might use the resources of your workplace to help defraud a corporation. The law may also deem you a conspirator simply for offering information that could help the conspirators.

Determining intent to join a conspiracy

It might not seem clear when someone actually agrees to join a conspiracy. It does not always happen in a formal, clear cut manner. Law enforcement may deduce that someone is participating in a conspiracy by their actions. A group of people may talk about committing a crime but they do not take any steps to go forward with it. However, if conspirators start taking steps like meeting in secret or pooling resources, law enforcement may take it as evidence of a conspiracy.

The intent to commit a crime remains an important part of a conspiracy. If law enforcement cannot establish an intention on your part to commit a crime, they may have problems demonstrating that you had any real participation in a criminal conspiracy.