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Federal Criminal Conspiracy

NCJ Number
American Criminal Law Review Volume: 47 Issue: 2 Dated: Spring 2010 Pages: 561-593
Benjamin M. Dooling; Marissa A. Lalli
Date Published
33 pages
After outlining the basic elements of a conspiracy offense under section 371 of The U.S. Code, this article explains defenses to such a charge; presents evidentiary and constitutional guidelines that govern the admissibility of coconspirator hearsay testimony at conspiracy trials; reviews procedural and substantive rules for enforcement efforts that involve multiple parties; and addresses sentencing for conspiracy offenses.
Criminal conspiracy has four elements, each of which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. There must be an agreement between at least two parties to achieve an illegal goal, and the parties must have knowledge of and actual participation in the conspiracy; further, at least one conspirator must have committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy. In addition to defending against the charge because of failure to prove the specific elements of the offense, defendants may also defend against the charge based on the statute of limitations, variance, multiplicitous indictment, insufficient indictment, and withdrawal from the conspiracy. Regarding the admission of a hearsay statement by a co-conspirator, prosecutors must prove three elements by a preponderance of the evidence: the existence of a conspiracy; the declarant's and defendant's participation in it; and that the hearsay statement was made in the course of and in furtherance of the conspiracy. Another section of the article discusses the vicarious liability of a defendant for acts of co-conspirators, issues associated with joinder and severance of multiple defendants, and the effect on a defendant of the acquittal of other co-conspirators. The article concludes with an explanation of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines pertinent to a conspiracy conviction. 173 notes


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