A conspiracy is an agreement between at least two people to commit a crime. To be convicted of conspiracy, you only have to agree with someone to commit a crime. You can be arrested and charged before you've taken any steps toward committing the crime as long as their's an agreement to commit a crime.
In general, Virginia law requires that the crime be a felony in order to charge someone with conspiracy to commit a crime. There are a few exceptions. The exceptions make it a crime to conspire to commit certain misdemeanors. But the vast majority of conspiracy charges are for felonies.
What's the punishment for conspiracy?
For the most part, conspiracy is a class 5 felony. That means it's punishable by up to 10 years in prison. But the punishment for a conspiracy can never be more than the punishment for the underlying offense. So if the underlying offense is a Class 6 felony, which are only punishable by up to 5 years in prison, a conspiracy is only punishable by up to 5 years in prison.
The other exception is capital murder. The punishment for conspiracy to commit capital murder is a class 3 felony. Class 3 felonies are punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
Can I be charged with both conspiracy and the underlying crime?
For example, say you're charged with two crimes:
- Breaking and Entering, and
- Conspiracy to break and enter.
Can you be charged and convicted of both breaking and entering and conspiracy to break and enter?
Yes. But only if the conspiracy and the breaking and entering are charged at the same time and the convictions occur at the same time. You cannot be first charged and convicted of breaking and entering and then charged and convicted of conspiracy to break and enter.
Police and prosecutors charge conspiracies because it puts more pressure on defendant to plead guilty. Defendant are pressured to enter into plea agreements where some charges are dropped because they are worried that being convicted of all charges will mean more jail time. If you're charged with conspiracy, you should make sure that you understand the possible and likely punishment you are facing for the crime.
Call Bryan to discuss the best way to defend yourself against a conspiracy charge.