Sec 182 of the California Penal Code defines the crime of criminal conspiracy as the agreement of two or more people to commit a crime and one of the people who had agreed performed an overt act in furtherance of that criminal agreement.
Any individual member of the conspiracy can commit the over act and need not be the actual criminal act itself but such overt act needs to be done before the commission of the actual criminal act. Even if one did not personally know all the members of the conspiracy or individual roles, one can be convicted of this crime in California.
The overt act is an actual act done to help in the accomplishment of the agreed upon crime. Furthermore, the said criminal act must be done before the completion of the crime and need not be a criminal act by itself. One can be guilty of the crime of conspiracy even if there was no consent or agreement to the crime as the completion of the agreed upon criminal act need not be completed. The agreement need not be explicit or even formal and can be proven through circumstantial evidence.
There are many types of criminal conspiracy, some of which are as follows:
- The commission of any crime under the California Penal Code;
- The false or malicious accusation in the commission or participation in a criminal offense, often done through the frame-up of another person;
- The initiation or maintenance of a fraudulent lawsuit;
- The cheating and/or defrauding of another person out of their money or property;
- The commission of an act against public welfare or that which perverts or obstructs justice, such as bribery, perjury, falsification of evidence, failure to enforce criminal laws by public officials or the corrupt acts of attorneys and/or judges;
- The commission of any crime against the President or Vice President, the Governor of any state, any U.S. judge or any U.S. Secretary;
All the members of a group of conspirators are criminally responsible for all the crimes committed by any one of the co-conspirators when the same criminal acts are committed in furtherance of the conspiracy. This crime involves moral turpitude and when committed by an immigrant or resident alien, the individual would be deportable to their country of origin.
There are different penalties depending on the type of criminal conspiracy committed. These are as follows:
- Conspiracy against a government official. This is a felony offense, punishable by either five, seven or nine years in state prison;
- Conspiracy to commit one or more felony offenses. In this offense, the penalty imposable for the criminal offense committed would be the imposable penalty for conspiracy. If two or more felonies are committed, then the felony with the most severe penalty would be imposable for the conspiracy committed;
- Conspiracy to commit fraud. Depending on the factual circumstances of the case and the individual’s criminal history, this kind of criminal conspiracy can be prosecuted either as misdemeanor or felony offense. As a misdemeanor offense, the penalty is up to one year in county jail and payment of a $10,000 fine while a felony offense would be payment for the same fine and incarceration of between sixteen (16) months to three (3) years in state prison.
- Other acts of conspiracy. Depending on the factual circumstances of the case and the individual’s criminal history, this criminal conspiracy, except commission of identity theft, where the fine imposable can be increased to $25,000.
- Conspiracy to commit murder. For this crime, the imposable penalty would be equivalent to first-degree murder. When the murder occurs in furtherance of another felony where there was conspiracy involved, all are liable for first-degree murder, regardless if the killing was intentional or accidental.
There are other crimes related to conspiracy. These include participation in a criminal street gang under Sec 186.22 of the California Penal Code. Another crime is aiding and abetting or when an individual encourages, facilitated or aids in the commission of a criminal act. The third act is being an accessory after the fact, when the individual participates after the commission of a criminal act such as aiding in the escape from arrest, trial, conviction and/or punishment. For any of the foregoing, depending on the circumstances and criminal history, the crime can be punished with up to one year in county jail for a misdemeanor offense or between sixteen (16) months or two (2) or three (3) years incarceration in a state prison facility.
The crime of criminal conspiracy is a serious offense in California. Should you be or know anyone facing any of these charges, do reach out to the lawyers at the Law Offices of Ramiro J. Lluis for a free consultation today.