When people hear the word “conspiracy,” they typically think of some kind of crackpot theory you might read online. Under California Penal Code section 182 (PC) though, a conspiracy occurs when two or more people work together to plan or commit any crime. Conspiracy allegations are drastically different than most criminal charges, as a person accused of the crime need not have actually committed an actual crime other than planning illegal activities with someone else —the criminal act itself doesn’t even need to have occurred.
Conspiracy to Commit a Crime Charges in California
Under 182 (PC), a conspiracy occurs when two or more people plan and work together to commit a felony and take some kind of action toward the completion of the crime. There is no requirement that the offense took place for charges to be filed as long as those involved took an overt act toward its completion.
In that case, they can be charged with conspiracy to commit murder, even if they are caught or abandon the plan long before the killing actually transpired. Similarly, if the murder was completed, but one person never took any part in the actual plot, they could still be charged with the others if they conspired to commit the crime.
It is also possible to face conspiracy charges in California for planning to falsely accuse or frame someone for a crime.
Conspiracy Penalties Under California Law
Anyone convicted of criminal conspiracy charges under 182 (PC) is subject to the same penalties as the crime they conspired to perform. If the offense was a felony, those convicted will face prison time. They will instead face jail time if the crime involved an agreement to commit a misdemeanor. When conspiracy charges in California involve more than one felony offense, the defendants will face penalties for the offense with the most severe sentence.
As an example, if two people have committed grand theft in part of their effort to manufacture drugs, they will face up to 7 years for the drug crimes, as the maximum sentence for these theft crimes is only 3 years.
If the crime was completed, they can be charged with both conspiracy and whatever actual crimes they committed. When the offenses were never actually brought to completion, they may instead face attempted crimes.
Related Criminal Charges
You could also face aiding and abetting charges for taking any act in furtherance to commit the agreed-upon crime, even if you were not directly involved. Under the law, those who aided and abetted another to commit a crime face the same charges as the person who committed the criminal act.
Alternatively, those who helped someone avoid the police after committing a crime can be charged with being an accessory after the fact, which is a wobbler. As a misdemeanor, it is punishable by up to one year in jail, but as a felony, it carries a 3-year prison sentence.
It is also common for those facing conspiracy charges to be accused of violating the state’s gang crime laws if they agreed to commit illegal activities on behalf of an organized crime ring.
Fighting Conspiracy Charges in California
The rules of evidence are looser in conspiracy cases, allowing the prosecutor to use evidence against you that they might not be able to have admitted in a case involving a regular criminal charge. The prosecution still must be able to prove that you were involved with the conspiracy and that after you made this agreement, someone took an overt action towards making the plan a reality. Merely associating with criminals who committed a crime is not enough to result in someone being convicted of conspiracy.
You cannot be found guilty of conspiracy if your criminal defense attorney can show that:
- you did not agree to the conspiracy
- no overt act was taken to further the crime after you made the agreement
- you withdrew from the scheme before the overt act was performed
If you are facing California conspiracy charges under 182 (PC), please contact a skilled attorney in San Diego immediately. Lawyer Peter M. Liss has over 35 years of experience fighting these and other allegations. Please call (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free consultation.