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Understanding Conspiracy Charges

Anyone without a legal background or more advanced knowledge of the law may be perplexed to learn of the existence of a criminal charge known as “conspiracy.” More than likely for most people this word evokes images of wild-eyed fanatics in tinfoil hats spouting off about the JFK assassination or the moon landing. However, unlike most conspiracy theories, criminal conspiracy charges are very real and very serious, and they have nothing to do with little green men.
In the state of South Carolina, conspiracy to commit a crime is a felony—usually even if the crime planned was a misdemeanor—and it refers to the offense of planning to commit a crime. Specifically, conspiracy is when at least two individuals work together to prepare to carry out some sort of criminal action.
Conspiracy charges can be brought whether the actual criminal activity was successfully carried out or not. Thus, one could be charged with conspiracy to commit a crime on top of the charges for the actual crime itself, or they could be charged with conspiracy as a standalone charge if they did not follow through with the crime. This is separate from any sort of “attempt” charges, which involves only one person trying to carrying out a crime with intent
Additionally, there is no requirement that the conspiratorial agreement to engage in illegal activity be planned in secret, nor must the plan be specific or intended to harm a specific target.
In South Carolina, the crime of conspiracy carries a fine of up to $5,000 and a prison sentence of up to five years for each person involved. This is in addition to any charges filed for actually following through with the planned crime. However, the penalty for conspiracy cannot be greater than the maximum penalty for the crime that the defendants conspired to commit. Thus, if it was determined by the court that two individuals conspired to commit second degree assault, a crime which carries a maximum three year prison sentence, the defendants could not be given any more than three years for the conspiracy conviction, though the three years for conspiracy could be combined with three years for the assault to equal six total years in prison if the act was carried out.
In order to prove conspiracy charges, there must be at least two key elements present. Firstly, an implicit or explicit agreement must have been made between two or more parties to engage in illicit activity. Secondly, there must have been intent to commit a crime. Some jurisdictions may also require the prosecution to show that at least one of the parties to the conspiracy engaged in some sort of overt action to further the preparation for the crime, such as purchasing equipment to assist in a burglary.
As you can imagine, this is a very complex criminal charge with many nuances. If you are facing any form of conspiracy charges, it is essential that you seek out a skilled criminal defense attorney to protect your rights. Contact the Greg McCollum Complete Legal Defense Team right away and let us fight for you.

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