Federal Conspiracy Law
March 30, 2021
Data from the FBI Uniform Crime Reporting Program indicates that 1,462 persons were arrested for federal offenses by FBI field officers in New York in 2019. A federal conspiracy occurs when two or more people agree to commit a federal crime or defraud the United States. If you are under investigation for federal conspiracy or if you're facing federal conspiracy charges, retaining an aggressive and highly-skilled New York criminal defense attorney is important to begin outlining your defense strategy.
At Melanson Law Office, I have more than 20 years of experience in providing comprehensive legal guidance and strong representation to individuals facing federal conspiracy allegations. As your legal counsel, I will investigate every last detail of your case and create a defense strategy to maximize your chances of obtaining a favorable outcome. My firm proudly represents clients throughout Kingston, Catskill, Saugerties, Hudson, and Highland, New York.
Federal Conspiracy Crimes
A conspiracy crime is defined as an agreement to commit an unlawful act. The general conspiracy statute, 18 United States Code Section 371, establishes that it is a crime "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."
Examples of Federal Conspiracy Crimes
Some common examples of federal conspiracy charges include conspiracy to commit:
Drug possession, trafficking, or distribution
Health care fraud
Bank, mail, or wire fraud
Obstruction of justice
RICO offenses (racketeering)
White-collar crimes such as embezzlement schemes
Elements of a Conspiracy
A conspiracy conviction does not require the underlying crime to have been committed. Before a defendant can be convicted of federal conspiracy, the prosecutor must prove the following elements:
Two or more persons agreed or conspired to commit an offense
The defendant (co-conspirator) understood the purpose of the criminal offense and willingly agreed to participate
At least one co-conspirator must perform an "overt act" or affirmative step in furtherance of the criminal act
Overlap of Federal & State Laws
When a disagreement exists between federal and state laws, federal law usually supersedes state law, but this doesn't mean state statutes will be overlooked as a result of overlap with federal law. In situations like these, a principle known as "concurrent jurisdiction" will apply.
Concurrent jurisdiction exists when two or more courts from different systems (federal and state courts) both claim jurisdiction over a particular criminal case at the same time. The double jeopardy clause in the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution states that "no person subject for the same offense shall be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb."
As a result of the double jeopardy clause, an offender may not be prosecuted twice by the government for the same offense. However, concurrent jurisdiction allows federal and state authorities to charge a defendant with different crimes. Therefore, state prosecutors can still file a charge against a defendant who has been acquitted of a federal charge.
The potential penalties for a federal conspiracy conviction often vary depending on the type of unlawful acts that were allegedly planned and whether the prosecutor established that the defendant or any of the alleged co-conspirators completed the criminal offense. Possible penalties include:
General Section 371 conspiracies (conspiracy charges only) are punishable by imprisonment for up to five years, fines, or both.
Drug trafficking, racketeering, and terrorist conspiracies all carry the same penalties as their underlying crimes.
If the underlying crime was a misdemeanor (wire fraud, mail fraud, etc.), the defendant may face the same penalties as the underlying offense.
If at least one co-conspirator executed any criminal acts, the defendant may face the penalties allowed by federal statute for the criminal acts.
Representation with Experience
Fighting federal conspiracy charges without experienced representation could leave you vulnerable to receiving the maximum penalties related to your case. If convicted, you could be facing a lengthy prison sentence, huge fines, and other devastating, life-changing consequences. When facing federal conspiracy charges, it is imperative that you retain an aggressive federal conspiracy defense attorney to help build your defense.
At Melanson Law Office, I have devoted my career to fighting for and defending individuals who have been accused of crimes. As your attorney, I will closely analyze your case, conduct a thorough investigation, and determine an effective defense strategy to fight your conspiracy charges. I will fight vigorously to dispute the allegations against you and protect your rights in every phase of the legal proceedings.
Reach Out to Me at Melanson Law Office P.C.
Facing any type of federal charges, including federal conspiracy, can be a scary experience. Contact my firm — Melanson Law Office P.C. — today to schedule a consultation. I can offer you the comprehensive legal guidance and aggressive representation you need. I am proud to serve clients throughout the areas of Kingston, Catskill, Saugerties, Hudson, and Highland, New York.