Westchester County Conspiracy Lawyer
In most criminal cases prosecuted in Westchester County, the prosecutor must prove both that the defendant intended to commit a crime and that they actually committed the act in question. A rare exception to this rule, however, is a criminal charge involving conspiracy.
No matter the exact circumstances that led to your arrest for conspiracy, a Westchester County conspiracy lawyer may be able to help. If retained, a proficient attorney could help you understand why you are facing criminal charges, what the prosecutor needs to prove, and how to deal with any other charges that may accompany the conspiracy accusation.
The Core Concept of Conspiracy
Conspiracy is an inchoate crime. This means that the criminal conduct is the preparation to commit a crime, rather than actually performing a criminal act.
For a conspiracy charge to be valid, two or more people must have prepared to commit the crime in question. Specifically, New York Penal Law §105.00 states that a person is guilty of conspiracy in the sixth degree if they agree to commit a crime with one or more persons. They must do this with the intent to actually commit the crime.
NYPL §105.20 expands upon this concept by establishing that the conspirators must commit an overt act that constitutes a furtherance of the crime. For example, if someone suggests to another person that they should steal a TV from a store and the second person agrees, this could count as a conspiracy to commit a crime.
However, a prosecutor could only gain a conviction if they can also prove that the two participants took a concrete step towards committing the crime. This can include evidence that the two people drew up escape plans, rented a van for the crime, arranged for a buyer for the stolen TV, and many other similar actions.
It is important to note that none of the above activities are by themselves illegal. However, when they are combined with the intent to commit a crime, they could qualify as criminal offenses, so it is often critical for those accused of criminal conspiracy to have a Westchester County conspiracy lawyer help them identify what supporting evidence the prosecution may have and make a plan to combat it.
What Constitutes an Overt Act?
Simply making a plan does not constitute a criminal act. For a conspiracy conviction, there must be an overt act that goes beyond just planning or preparing for the offense. An overt act is one that advances the plan in some way. However, that does not mean the overt act must be criminal in and of itself. In fact, most overt acts to further a criminal conspiracy are not otherwise unlawful.
Determining whether an act is overt or not is subjective. For that reason, an experienced attorney could provide crucial assistance in contesting allegations that a defendant committed an overt act in a Westchester conspiracy case.
The Varying Levels of Conspiracy
The severity of a conspiracy accusation depends on the type of crime that the conspirators agree to commit and the age of any co-conspirators. The core version of conspiracy discussed above, in which multiple conspirators agree to commit a misdemeanor, is itself a class B misdemeanor. More advanced levels of conspiracy include:
- Conspiracy in the fifth degree (NYPL §105.05) – a class A misdemeanor involving agreement by multiple conspirators to commit a felony, or an adult agreeing with a child under the age of 16 to commit any crime
- Conspiracy in the fourth degree (NYPL §105.10) – a class E felony involving agreement to commit a class B or C felony, or an adult agreeing with a child under 16 to commit any felony
- Conspiracy in the third degree (NYPL §105.13) – a class D felony involving agreement to commit a class B or C felony with a child under 16
- Conspiracy in the second degree (NYPL §105.15) – a class B felony involving agreement between two people of any age to commit a class A felony
- Conspiracy in the first degree (NYPL §105.17) – a class A-1 felony involving agreement between an adult and a child under 16 to commit a class A felony
As these sections of New York Penal Law illustrate, a person does not need to commit a criminal offense in the traditional sense to face multiple years in prison. The mere agreement to commit a crime combined with taking a step towards doing it could be enough for a prosecutor to secure a conviction. However, a Westchester County conspiracy lawyer could work with someone facing any of these specific charges to potentially prevent this from happening.
What Underlying Crimes Commonly Involve Conspiracy Charges?
Not every criminal offense is likely to result in conspiracy charges. For instance, there are no prosecutions for conspiracy to commit DWI. However, conspiracy charges could be brought for any major crime that involves planning among multiple people.
The most common conspiracy charges involve controlled substances. These cases could include allegations of conspiring to manufacture, distribute, or sell narcotics. Conspiracy to commit murder is another charge commonly seen in high-profile cases.
Is it Possible to Withdraw from a Conspiracy?
It is possible to withdraw from a conspiracy before the underlying criminal act is carried out. While the withdrawal might remove a person from criminal liability for the underlying offense, it does not absolve them of the conspiracy charge itself.
Furthermore, a defendant must be unequivocal and active in communicating their withdrawal. They must take steps to clearly show that they will not participate in the crime any further. Silently refusing to continue with the plan does not constitute an effective withdrawal from the conspiracy.
Let a Westchester County Conspiracy Attorney Help
Charges involving conspiracy can confuse and intimidate many defendants. You may not understand how you can be facing criminal charges despite not actually committing an offense. In reality, merely agreeing to commit a crime with another person, and then taking a substantial step towards committing it, is illegal in and of itself.
If you are facing conspiracy charges in New York, you may need help from an attorney who understands the nuances of New York Penal Law. A Westchester County conspiracy lawyer could work with you to evaluate the actions of everyone involved in the conspiracy and determine if any substantial step was taken to commit a crime. Alternatively, they could help you argue that you disavowed the conspiracy in a way that could result in your charges being dropped.