New Jersey Conspiracy Lawyers

New Jersey Criminal Lawyers Schwartz Posnock

Experienced New Jersey conspiracy lawyers

The general conspiracy statute, 18 U.S.C. § 371, has proven to be a most flexible and enduring weapon for federal prosecutors. However, Congress has also incorporated specialized conspiracy provisions into statutes enacting a related substantive crime. For example, the Hobbs Act (18 U.S.C. § 1951) and RICO (18 U.S.C. § 1962(c)) both include heir own conspiracy provisions. The Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970, which enacted the framework for the current drug legislation, incorporated two conspiracy provisions, 21 U.S.C. §§ 846 and 963.

The penalties for violating federal statutory conspiracies vary widely. In general, the specific federal conspiracy statutes provide for longer maximum terms of imprisonment than § 371, under which the maximum sentence is 5 years.

Seventy years ago Learned Hand characterized conspiracy as “the darling of the modern prosecutor’s nursery.”

The chief procedural advantage of a conspiracy charge is that it permits the prosecutor to join all coconspirators for trial. A joint trial enhances the likelihood of convicting each individual defendant as a result of the aggregation of evidence. The chief evidentiary significance of a conspiracy charge is that it permits the prosecutor to take advantage of the conspirator exception to the hearsay rule. Under Rule 801(d)(2) of the Federal Rules of Evidence, a statement is not hearsay if it is “made by the coconspirator of a party during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy.” Furthermore, Rule 801 has been given an interpretation that substantially eases the prosecution’s burden of proof. The prosecution may use the coconspirators’ statements themselves to help establish both the conspiracy and the speaker’s participation in it.

A conspiracy charge permits prosecution of inchoate criminal activity that never reached fruition. When the contemplated crime was completed, the addition of a conspiracy charge provides a basis for the addition of a second penalty even though only one substantive crime was committed.

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