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Federal Criminal Conspiracy

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 42 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2005 Pages: 463-495
Kathy Diener; Teisha C. Johnson
Date Published
33 pages
This article describes the elements of a conspiracy offense as well as available defenses to the charge and evidentiary and enforcement issues.
Section 371 of Title 18 of the United States Code defines the crime of conspiracy to commit an offense against the United States or to defraud the United States. Following an introduction to the Federal offense in section 1, section 2 of the article reviews the basic elements of a conspiracy offense as they are defined in Section 371, which includes an agreement between at least two parties to achieve an illegal goal. Section 2 outlines the available defenses to a charge of conspiracy; the four main defenses are described as: (1) statute of limitations; (2) variance; (3) multiplicitous indictment; and (4) withdrawal. Section 4 discusses the co-conspirator exception to the hearsay rule, which allows co-conspirators to act as witnesses in trial, and section 5 explores the main enforcement issues relating to conspiracy offenses, which revolve around vicarious liability issues, joinder and severance decisions, and the acquittal of other co-conspirators. Finally, the United States Sentencing Guidelines pertaining to sentencing ranges for conspiracy convictions are reviewed. Footnotes