The word “conspiracy” is often thrown around in both criminal law and popular culture. People could be referencing anything from the moon landing to organized crime when they chat about conspiracies. Despite “conspiracy” being widely used, in criminal law at the state level, individuals are often shocked to be charged as a part of a criminal conspiracy. They often wonder how their minimal action could have led to Felony conspiracy charges. It begs the question, what is a criminal conspiracy, and how involved does someone have to be in order to be charged?
Minnesota Statute § 609.175 defines a conspiracy as “whoever conspires with another to commit a crime and in furtherance of the conspiracy one or more of the parties does some overt act in furtherance of such conspiracy.” In order to prove conspiracy, the state must show “(1) an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime (2) an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy.” State v. Kuhnau, 622 N.W.2d 552, 556 (Minn. 2001). Simply committing a crime, for example dealing drugs where the only evidence is an agreement between dealer and buyer, does not constitute conspiracy because it does not involve “an agreement between [two] or more people.” State v. Pinkerton, 628 N.W.2d 159, 164 (Minn. App. 2001). The State must also show that you were aware of the nature of the “true character” of the criminal acts in order to charge conspiracy. State v. Kuhnau, 622 N.W.2d 552 (Minn. 2001). Once the State has evidence of an agreement between two or more parties and that you committed an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy, you can be charged with conspiracy. The level of sentence and the seriousness of the conspiracy charges will depend on the criminal activities of the crime itself.
Under Minnesota Statute § 609.175, if the intended crime of the conspiracy is intended to be a misdemeanor, you may be sentenced for up to 90 days and/or pay a fine of $300.00. If the intended crime is murder in the first degree or treason, you could face up to 20 years in prison. An individual involved in a conspiracy to commit a felony or gross misdemeanor will be sentenced to no more than half the imprisonment and/or fine for the specific felony or gross misdemeanor that the conspiracy intended to commit.
Conspiracy is a charge individuals often do not see coming, but if you agree to commit a crime with two or more individuals and commit an overt act in furtherance of the agreement, no matter how minimal you feel the conduct was, the State may have enough to charge you with conspiracy.
If you are concerned about possible criminal liability associated with a criminal conspiracy charge, contact one of our attorneys at 763.421.6366.