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Conspiracy Charges

A conspiracy is simply an "agreement" to commit a crime.  Conspiracy is committed when two or more individuals join together to commit a crime. To be convicted of conspiracy, the prosecution must prove the agreement and also prove a substantial step (or overt act) was taken in furtherance of the agreement.  However, the "overt act" does not have to be illegal.  (For example, it is legal to own a car, but if a car is purchased as part of an agreement to commit a robbery, then purchasing the car might also be an overt act).

The punishment for conspiracy under Texas laws is generally the same as the punishment for the underlying crime agreed (for example robbery). In the federal courts, the crime of conspiracy is generally punishable by up to five years in prison.  Some federal conspiracy statutes such as conspiracy to deliver drugs, however, carry a greater punishment (the same punishment as the underlying drug charge).

Although it is illegal to engage in a "conspiracy" to violate both Texas and  federal laws, the crime of conspiracy is more often charged in federal drug or  white collar cases than in state crimes prosecuted in Texas.

Conspiracy is the term for a broad category of crimes involving multiple actors coming together to engage in concerted criminal activity. A person or business generally is guilty of conspiracy to commit a crime if that person or business does one of the following:

  • (1) with the purpose of facilitating or promoting its commission, agrees with another person or business to engage in conduct that constitutes a crime or an attempt or solicitation of a crime; or

  • (2) agrees to aid another person or business in planning, committing, or attempting to solicit a crime.

Specific federal anti-conspiracy statutes are found throughout the United States Code. In recent years, a growing number of white collar criminal prosecutions have included allegations of conspiracy.

Bringing a conspiracy charge offers the prosecution several distinct advantages. Prosecutors usually learn of a conspiracy while it is in an early stage; thus, they may prosecute before the underlying crime takes place. In addition, prosecutors may be able to charge defendants simultaneously and present evidence against the group. When several defendants stand trial together, juries often perceive individual defendants to be guilty by virtue of their association with the others.

A key element in prosecuting a defendant for conspiracy is proving the agreement. The agreement that forms the basis for conspiracy need not be written, oral, or even explicit, but is often inferred from the facts of the specific case. If the parties meet and reach an understanding to work for a common purpose, there is an agreement. For example, if the producers of a particular product meet to exchange information on prices, and later set identical prices, a prosecutor may be able to prove they conspired to set prices even though there was never an explicit agreement to do so. Most criminal conspiracy statutes also require that at least one of the parties has committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.

A procedural issue of great importance to parties accused of conspiracy is whether government prosecutors try to frame the conspiracy as a "hub-and-spoke conspiracy" or a "chain conspiracy." In a hub-and-spoke conspiracy, many parties (the spokes), conspire with one person (the hub), but not with other defendants. It is advantageous for a defendant to have its actions characterized as part of a hub-and-spoke conspiracy, because that means that the conspiracies are separate and disconnected.

In contrast to a hub-and-spoke conspiracy, a chain conspiracy involves several parties as links in one long criminal chain. Defendants in chain conspiracies are responsible for the actions of all participants in the chain, even if they never met some of the other participants in the chain. There are defenses to the crime of conspiracy.  Thus, it is important to hire counsel who have experience in this area of the law. Contact The Sheena Law firm today to discuss your case.

Danny M. Sheena, P.E.

The Sheena Law Firm
2500 West Loop South, Suite 518
Houston, Texas 77027
(713) 224-6508 - Office
(713) 225-1560 - Fax

Email: [email protected]


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