When two or more parties come together to formulate a plan to carry out a crime, all parties involved may be charged with conspiracy.
Many people are surprised to learn that criminal conspiracy is its own criminal offense. Someone may be charged with conspiracy, along with a crime itself. However, it is important to remember that criminal conspiracy is an offense that focuses on the planning of the crime, rather than the execution of the crime itself.
Elements of criminal conspiracy
Conspiracy is classified as an inchoate offense, meaning that you can be convicted even if the illegal act was not completed. If you are charged with criminal conspiracy in Texas, under Tex. Penal Code Ann. Sec. 15.02, prosecutors will have to prove each of the following elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- Agreement: There was an agreement between you and at least one other person.
- Intent: You and the others involved in the agreement had intent to commit a crime.
- Overt act: You or someone else involved in the agreement engaged in an overt act to further the conspiracy, even if the act is not illegal on its own (e.g., buying supplies).
What is the penalty for a conspiracy conviction?
If you are convicted of criminal conspiracy in Texas, your sentence may depend on the crime you were planning to commit. Generally, you will charged with one category of felony lower than the most serious felony that is part of the conspiracy. For example, if the felony associated with your conspiracy is a state jail felony, you will face the punishment of a Class A misdemeanor (up to a year in jail and/or up to $4,000 in fines).
Many people who are charged with white collar crimes, such as embezzlement, fraud, or bribery, are also charged with conspiracy. A conspiracy charge can result in more serious consequences than the crime by itself. However, there are many ways to defend against a conspiracy charge (e.g., proving there was no agreement or that you did not know the plan involved a crime).