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Federal Criminal Conspiracy

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 45 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2008 Pages: 499-530
Anne Langer; Jonathan Parnes
Date Published
32 pages
This overview of criminal conspiracy under Federal law addresses elements of the offense, defenses, the co-conspirator hearsay rule, enforcement, and sentencing.
Under 18 U.S. Code section 371, it is a crime to conspire to commit any offense against the United States or to defraud the United States. A conspiracy is distinct from the substantive crime contemplated by the conspiracy and may be charged whether or not the substantive offense contemplated by the conspirators actually occurred. Federal prosecutors apply conspiracy to a variety of situations, making it one of the most commonly charged Federal crimes. Section II of this article outlines the basic elements of a conspiracy offense under section 371, namely, agreement; illegal goal; knowledge, intent, and participation; and overt act. A discussion of the defenses to conspiracy charges focuses on the statute of limitations, variance, multiplicitous indictment (when a single conspiracy is charged as more than one count), insufficient indictment, withdrawal from the conspiracy, and other defenses. One section of this article focuses on the coconspirator hearsay rule. Before a court allows admission of a hearsay statement by a co-conspirator in testimony against a fellow conspirator, the prosecution must prove three elements: the existence of a conspiracy; the declarant's and defendant's participation in it; and that the hearsay statement was made during the course of and in furtherance of the conspiracy. Any statement by a coconspirator that promotes the main objectives of the conspiracy is considered to be in furtherance of the conspiracy. Evidentiary issues and sixth amendment issues (the right to confront witnesses at trial) are discussed. The article's section on enforcement considers vicarious liability, joinder and severance, and the acquittal of other coconspirators. A review of sentencing under conspiracy convictions concludes the article. 173 notes


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