What is a Criminal Conspiracy?

in Drug Charges, on

Stories about drug conspiracies are common news items in North Carolina. Just recently, six men were charged by federal prosecutors in Charlotte with conspiracy to distribute marijuana, cocaine and heroin. Five of the six defendants face life in prison if convicted, according to WSOC-TV.

Our readers likely know what the word “conspiracy” means, but may not be sure what a conspiracy is in the criminal law context. Today, we will provide a brief overview of criminal conspiracy charges.

In general, a criminal conspiracy is considered to exist when at least two people agree to commit nearly any type of crime, and then take some action toward completing that act. That act need not be a crime, but it must indicate that the conspirators know the plan exists, and it must show the conspirators intended to break the law.

For example, say three people decide to rob a store. One of them goes to the store to determine its level of security, while another borrows a car to act as the getaway vehicle. At this point, all three could be found guilty of conspiracy, even though neither of the actions they undertook is illegal in and of itself, and the third person took no action beyond agreeing to join the conspiracy.

In other words, no actual crime needs to occur for the defendants to be convicted. And even minor assistance can cause prosecutors to accuse a person of being part of the conspiracy, which can result in prison time.

It is not clear what the six defendants’ alleged actions were that made them eligible for drug conspiracy charges.