When two or more people get together and agree to commit a crime in the future, have they already committed a crime? In some cases, the answer is yes: they have committed conspiracy. Conspiracy, however, is not quite as simple as that. In North Carolina, the prosecution must prove three specific elements to convict a person of conspiracy. Here, we review the elements of conspiracy, along with the penalties and possible defenses to the crime.
The Elements of Conspiracy
Conspiracy is the agreement by two or more people to commit a crime. Specifically, the following three elements must be present to prove a conspiracy:
- Agreement: First, two people must come to an agreement (which can be an oral agreement or a mutual understanding – it does not have to be written).
- A Criminal Offense: Second, the agreement must have been to commit a criminal offense.
- Intent: Third, at the time of the agreement, the conspirators must have intended to commit the criminal offense.
Prosecutors often charge defendants with conspiracy to commit a crime when two or more people are involved in a crime. It does not matter whether the crime is eventually carried out or not; a prosecutor can still charge a person or people with conspiracy if these elements are met. In addition to conspiracy charges, if the crime is indeed carried out, the defendants will likely be charged not only with conspiracy but with the underlying crime as well. This means that prosecutors can bring conspiracy charges for any number of crimes committed by two or more people, such as drug crimes, burglary, robbery, murder, and more.
Penalties for Conspiracy
In general, under North Carolina G.S. § 14-2.4, the punishment for conspiracy (for both felonies and misdemeanors) is one classification level lower than that of the punishment for the underlying crime. For example, some robberies are classified as Class D felonies. If the charge is conspiracy to commit robbery, the charge would be dropped down one level to a Class E felony, and the penalty would be lowered accordingly.
There are a couple of exceptions to this rule:
- a conspiracy to commit a Class A or Class B1 felony is a Class B2 felony,
- a conspiracy to commit a Class B2 felony is a Class C felony,
- a conspiracy to commit a Class I felony is a Class 1 misdemeanor, and
- a conspiracy to commit a Class 3 misdemeanor remains a Class 3 misdemeanor.
Contact Our Offices Today to Discuss Your Defense
If you have been charged with a conspiracy crime in North Carolina, you are entitled to a vigorous defense. Jeremy Cotten of Cotten Law can help. Jeremy has represented tens of thousands of clients and has hundreds of stellar reviewsonline. Our offices serve clients in central North Carolina including Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Orange, Sampson, Lee, and Chatham Counties.
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