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Welcome to my Law blog specifically intended as an aid to law students. I will post comments and white papers, from time to time, and I am happy to carry on conversations with students who are in need of help in law school.


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I am a Professor of Law at Concord Law School, an Internet Law School located in Los Angeles, though I live, teach and otherwise work out of Lakewood, Colorado, resting up against the foothills just west of Denver.

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Monday, March 29, 2010

3 - Crimes – Preliminary Crimes (Conspiracy)

3 - Crimes – Preliminary Crimes (Conspiracy)

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE FOLLOWING IS TAKEN FROM SOME OF MY CLASS NOTES, SOME OF WHICH IS MY OWN PERSONAL WORK AND SOME OF WHICH BELONGS TO CONCORD LAW SCHOOL.  IT IS POSTED TO HELP MY IL STUDENTS IN PARTICULAR.  IT CANNOT BE DISSEMINATED WITHOUT EXPRESS, WRITTEN PERMISSION.

In the last criminal law session, we looked at solicitation. Now we’ll start the topic of the second preliminary crime - conspiracy.

Remember our timeline: 

-> Ask/Solicitation -> Agree/Conspiracy -> Act/Attempt ->

Conspiracy is defined as an agreement for some unlawful purpose. A majority of states also require an overt act in furtherance. So the best definition is an agreement for some unlawful purpose and, in a majority of states, an overt act in furtherance.

Note that each member of a conspiracy is liable for any crime committed by a co-conspirator during the course of and in furtherance of the conspiracy and which is a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the conspiracy. Also, under the Wharton Rule, there cannot be conspiracy unless there are more conspirators than required for the target crime.

If the target crime is committed, the perpetrator can still be guilty of conspiracy, but there is no vicarious liability for future crimes of ex-conspirators if there has been an effective withdrawal.

Conspiracy is an offense which continues up to the point of abandonment or success. Conspiracy and the target crime are separate and distinct offenses so a conspiracy conviction is not proper on a single charge of the completed crime. If the only charge is murder, the defendant could not be guilty of conspiracy. In addition, acquittal of the target crime, does NOT bar a conviction for the conspiracy to commit the target crime. And, since merger does not apply to conspiracy, one may be convicted AND punished for both the conspiracy and the target crime.

Conspiracy and withdrawal: At Common Law, the conspiracy is complete with the agreement so an attempted withdrawal is not an effective withdrawal. The modern view is that (1) An affirmative notice to all co-conspirators (2) made in time for the co-conspirators to effectively abandon the conspiracy and (3) made in a way which would be sufficient to inform a reasonable person of the withdrawal. The MPC view is that the withdrawal is effective "only if and when he advises those with whom he conspired of his abandonment OR he informs the law enforcement authorities of the existence of the conspiracy and of his participation therein" 503 (7) (c).

Professor Doug Holden
© 2010. Douglas S. Holden. All Rights Reserved.

2 comments:

  1. Would you elaborate on the sentence: "there is no vicarious liability for future crimes of ex-conspirators if there has been an effective withdrawal." I'm not really keeping up with you there.

    Your help is always appreciated.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Sure, Jay.

    A conspirator is liable for any crime committed by a co-conspirator during the course of and in furtherance of the conspiracy and which is a reasonably foreseeable consequence of the conspiracy. Your question deals with the question of withdrawal in relation to a conspiracy.

    At Common Law, the conspiracy is complete with the agreement so an attempted withdrawal is not an effective withdrawal. The modern view is that (1) An affirmative notice to all co-conspirators (2) made in time for the co-conspirators to effectively abandon the conspiracy and (3) made in a way which would be sufficient to inform a reasonable person of the withdrawal. The MPC view is that the withdrawal is effective "only if and when he advises those with whom he conspired of his abandonment OR he informs the law enforcement authorities of the existence of the conspiracy and of his participation therein." Note also that vicarious liability allow a party who did not actually do the crime, to still be guilty of the crime -- here because he is a co-conspirator.

    So lets assume that two parties agree to an illegal endeavor and one co-conspirator effectively withdraws and then, at some time in the future, the other co-conspirator completes the crime. In jurisdictions where the co-conspirator who has withdrawn, would still be vicariously liable (at C/L for instance), he would not be liable since the crime took place at some time in the future and he had withdrawn.

    I hope this helps.

    Professor Holden

    ReplyDelete