With the ubiquitous nature of police and court dramas on television, the average person in America has a fairly large legal vocabulary. One term that is a favorite in television police dramas and even Hollywood films is “conspiracy.” It seems someone is always involved in a conspiracy to commit a seriously dangerous crime. Having heard the term so often you may think you have a good idea what it means; however, if you are ever actually charged with conspiracy, you need to understand how the law defines the term. Toward that end, an Omaha violent crime attorney explains how conspiracy is defined by law and what the State would need to prove to convict you of conspiracy.
Nebraska Conspiracy Law
Nebraska Revised Statute Section 28-202 governs conspiracy, reading as follows:
(1) A person shall be guilty of criminal conspiracy if, with intent to promote or facilitate the commission of a felony:
(a) He agrees with one or more persons that they or one or more of them shall engage in or solicit the conduct or shall cause or solicit the result specified by the definition of the offense; and
(b) He or another person with whom he conspired commits an overt act in pursuance of the conspiracy.
(2) If a person knows that one with whom he conspires to commit a crime has conspired with another person or persons to commit the same crime, he is guilty of conspiring to commit such crime with such other person or persons whether or not he knows their identity.
(3) If a person conspires to commit a number of crimes, he is guilty of only one conspiracy so long as such multiple crimes are the object of the same agreement or continuous conspiratorial relationship.
(4) Conspiracy is a crime of the same class as the most serious offense which is an object of the conspiracy, except that conspiracy to commit a Class I felony is a Class II felony.
A person prosecuted for a criminal conspiracy shall be acquitted if such person proves by a preponderance of the evidence that his or her conduct occurred in response to an entrapment.
Federal Conspiracy Law
We often hear of conspiracies at the federal level as well. The federal conspiracy law is very similar to the Nebraska law. Governed by 18 U.S. Code § 371, the federal conspiracy law reads as follows:
If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy, each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than five years, or both.
If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for such misdemeanor.
Conspiracy Explained – What Must the Government Prove?
The primary difference between the Nebraska statute and the federal statute is that the Nebraska statute applies only when the defendant conspired to commit a felony offense. Apart from that the elements the State must prove to convict you of conspiracy at either the state or federal level are very similar and include:
- two or more persons
- enter into an agreement
- to commit a felony (Nebraska) OR to violate the law or defraud the U.S. (U.S.)
- commission of an overt act in furtherance of the agreement
The “overt act” element is what confuses the average person. The easiest way to explain that element is by way of illustration. Imagine that John and Kyle are talking one day about robbing a bank. By the end of the conversation, they have the whole bank robbery planned out and verbally agree to carry out the robbery in one week. In the meantime, Kyle is supposed to purchase black ski masks and black duffle bags to be used in the robbery while John is supposed to find a cheap car to use and pay for it in cash. Neither one is aware of it, but law enforcement officers heard the entire conversation. Although they do not actually go through with the bank robbery, John does go out and purchase a cheap car with cash while Kyle never buys the ski masks and duffle bags. John could be convicted of conspiracy to commit bank robbery because purchasing the car is an “overt act in furtherance of the agreement.” Kyle, on the other hand, could argue that he was never seriously planning to commit the crime as evidenced by the fact that he did not commit an overt act indicating his intention to follow through.
Contact An Omaha Violent Crime Attorney at Petersen Law Office
If you have been charged with conspiracy to commit a violent crime in the State of Nebraska, consult with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. In Nebraska contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law 24 hours a day at 402-509-8070 to discuss your case.
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