Defense Attorneys for Conspiracy Charges in Florida
The crime of conspiracy is called an inchoate crime. It is complete when the co-conspirators reach an agreement to commit a crime. The agreement could be stated or implied. The conspiracy is complete when the parties agree to perform an unlawful act, and the parties do not have to complete the act to be convicted of conspiracy. Although conspiracies can occur with any crime, Florida prosecutors commonly charge conspiracy concerning drug offenses, aggravated battery, murder cases, or another Federal Crime. Also, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Department of Justice are fond of indicting cases as conspiracy charges rather than proving the crime was committed by the party charged.
Criminal Conspiracy in Florida
The crime of conspiracy is defined by Florida Statutes §777.04(3). Under that subsection, a person is guilty of the crime of conspiracy when two or more people either combine or confederates with one another and agree or conspire to commit any crime.
The government always has the burden to prove the accused guilty of the charge of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt. To prove a conspiracy, the government, represented by the state’s attorney, must prove that the defendant held a subjective intent to commit the crime, and the accused agreed with one or more persons to commit that crime or to engage a third party to commit the crime. Therefore, the state’s attorney is bound by precedent to prove that the defendant was part of the agreement, and the accused had the specific intent that the crime should be committed.
The state is not limited to charging the crime of conspiracy or the crime, which was the object of the conspiracy. Conspiracy is different from that attempt. The conspiracy is complete when the co-conspirators agree on the purpose of the crime. The crime of attempt is an overt act by the parties, but the parties either tried and missed their opportunity or were thwarted before they could complete the act.
An example of a conspiracy would be two friends agree to rob a branch of the USA bank in a Florida municipality. Supposed further that the two friends agreed to wear masks and use firearms to rob the bank. The conspiracy is complete at that point. Even if they never go through with it, the crime of conspiracy will exist. However, when the two conspirators agreed on a date and time, get masks and guns, then drive to USA bank to commit the robbery, the conspiracy is ongoing. Still, they have not gone far enough for an attempt to commit armed and masked robbery.
However, if the two run up to the cashier with masks on and showing their firearms, and the bank security guard intervenes before they could rob the bank, the two are guilty of attempt to rob.
Aiding and Abetting is Not a Conspiracy
Aiding and abetting a crime is an antiquated legal phrase denoting that someone helped another try to evade capture after committing a crime. The current term for aiding and abetting is an accessory after the fact. Accessory after the fact to a crime is a crime on its own. Notwithstanding, an accessory after the fact cannot be liable as a conspirator. An accessory might not know that a crime happened, but rather assisted in the getaway of the principals, that is, the people who committed the crime, or concealed evidence of a crime.
The punishments for accessory after the fact can be severe, and sometimes disproportionate to the assistance provided to the principal. For instance, the accessory after could be convicted of a first-degree misdemeanor if the underlying crime was a third-degree felony. Moreover, the accessory after could be guilty of a first-degree felony if the accessory helped someone get away with a capital offense.
Merely being at or near a crime scene is not a conspiracy. Being present at the scene of a crime might make you a witness, but it does not mean that you conspired to commit the crime. Law enforcement officers might think you are part of a joint venture as well. Two or more people working together to commit a crime are part of a joint venture. They could be conspirators as well, although not every crime committed by a joint venture is preceded by a conspiracy.
Defenses to Charges of Conspiracy in Florida
The accused conspirator must be inextricably connected to a conspiracy to be guilty of the crime. The state’s attorney will have no case if a person does not fully agree with the co-conspirators in the criminal enterprise. Even having a tangential connection with a conspiracy does not bring one into the conspiratorial enterprise. Moreover, knowledge of a crime that will be committed, without proof of a prior agreement, is insufficient to ensnare a person in a conspiracy. For example, if you know someone is buying drugs and selling them and that person tells you that he agreed to pick up a large shipment of the narcotic, you are not part of the conspiracy.
Withdrawal from the conspiracy is often a viable defense to conspiracy charges in Florida. A person could be acquitted for a conspiracy charge if there is evidence that the accused withdrew from the conspiracy and persuaded someone to stop before committing the crime or tried to stop the crime from occurring. The best proof of withdrawal from a conspiracy is proof that the person notified the police of the crime that was about to be committed. Contacting the police is not always possible, however.
Another viable defense lies in the government’s inability to prove the co-conspirators agreed to commit the same crime. The proof will be insufficient if the state’s attorney could prove that people could not agree on which act they would commit. The conspirators must agree on the same crime, not just crimes generally.
Another defense lies in defending broadly and arguing that the government has not proved the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Poking holes in the government’s evidence demonstrate to the jury that the state cannot prove a conspiracy.
Aggressive Defense for Criminal Conspiracies in Florida
Penalties for a conspiracy conviction could be severe. Florida law allows a judge to sentence the conspirator as though he or she was a principal. Therefore, you must mount a vigorous defense led by lawyers who understand how the state’s attorney will try to prove your guilt. Call Musca Law’s conspiracy defense lawyers today at (888) 484-5057 to learn more.