When most people think of criminal charges, they think of a completed crime, or at least an attempted crime. However, under Maryland law, there is a way you can be charged with a crime you neither attempted nor completed. This type of charge is known as a “conspiracy” charge and is one of the trickiest concepts in the law to understand. Essentially, if you work with others toward the common goal of achieving a criminal or unlawful purpose, you can be charged with conspiracy.
When charged with conspiracy, especially as a stand-alone crime, many people will be exceptionally confused, much more so than if they were charged with something straightforward like assault. At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, our conspiracy charges defense lawyers have years of experience under their belts successfully defending clients against conspiracy charges. We can help guide you through this confusing process. If you have been charged with conspiracy, call us today at (410) 694-7291 for a free consultation.
Definition of Conspiracy in Baltimore
As noted above, a conspiracy in Maryland occurs when two or more people agree to commit a crime or undertake a legal act by illegal means. For example, if you and a friend get together and draw up a plan to break into the local museum and steal a piece of rare and expensive art, you have engaged in a conspiracy.
In many states, there is a requirement that an “overt act” be committed in furtherance of the conspiracy for conspiracy to be charged. For example, purchasing the burglary tools needed to break into the museum would be an overt act. However, the state of Maryland specifically excludes the requirement of an overt act in its definition of conspiracy.
In Maryland, all that is required to prove conspiracy is what is known as a “meeting of the minds.” This is a way of stating that you and your co-conspirators must have all been on the same page and actually intended to carry out the crime. For example, if your friend was planning this art heist as a joke, there can be no conspiracy, because he did not actually intend to carry this out. If your “friend” was actually an undercover police officer trying to lure you into committing this crime, conspiracy would similarly not apply. Both parties must have had an actual intent for the crime to be committed at the time of the conspiracy.
In certain large conspiracies, it is not even necessary that the co-conspirators ever met one another or are aware of the entire plan so long as they are aware they are committing an unlawful act. For example, if, after the art heist, your friend tells you that he is going to give the painting to a middle-man to sell, and that middle-man knows the painting is stolen, you can all be charged with conspiracy even though you and the middle-man never met and may not even know the other’s true identity.
Types of Conspiracies That Can Be Charged in Baltimore
You can be charged with conspiracy for virtually any underlying charge in Maryland so long as you plan to commit it with others. Our experienced conspiracy defense attorneys at Rice, Murtha & Psoras have crafted successful defenses for all types of conspiracy charges. Some of the most common include the following.
Conspiracy to Commit Homicide
Conspiracies to commit homicide often occur in the context of gang-related cases. For example, say the boss of a gang tells his number two to have someone in a rival gang murdered. The second-in-command might enlist the help of a foot soldier in committing the murder at the behest of their mutual boss. Perhaps the second-in-command plans to lure the rival gang member to an ambush where the foot soldier will actually carry out the crime. If the plan is discovered, all three parties could be charged with conspiracy to commit the murder of the rival gang member.
Conspiracy to Commit Theft, Robbery, or Burglary
Another common type of conspiracy involves theft, robbery, or burglary, such as a conspiracy to rob a bank. Perhaps three friends get together to plan a bank heist. One will be the “holdup man,” pointing a gun at the teller and demanding the money. Another will sneak into the control room and deactivate the bank’s alarm system. The third person will keep watch and act as a getaway driver. All three could be charged with conspiracy, even if they do not actually carry out their plan.
Drug conspiracies are perhaps the most common type of conspiracy charged in Baltimore. If a group of people work together to import, package, and sell drugs, they can all be charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs, even those who did not do the actual distributing.
Penalties for Conspiracy in Baltimore
In Maryland, conspiracy is always charged as a misdemeanor. However, this is somewhat misleading, as the potential penalties for conspiracy are not based on its grade as a misdemeanor or a felony, but on the underlying crime the person conspired to commit. There are no set penalties for a conspiracy. The only rule in the criminal code is that the punishment for conspiracy may not exceed the maximum punishment for the underlying crime.
So, if the conspiracy was to commit homicide, you can face life in prison if convicted of conspiracy even if the actual homicide was never carried out. It is vitally important, then, that you have a knowledgeable conspiracy crimes defense attorney like those at Rice, Murtha & Psoras on your team to make the case that your conspiracy did not rise to the level of deserving such harsh punishments.
If You Have Been Charged with Conspiracy in Baltimore, Call Our Veteran Defense Firm Today
Conspiracy crimes can seem like some of the most unfair charges in the criminal law, considering they can be charged when you never actually committed a crime. However, they should be taken seriously because they can come with harsh penalties. At Rice, Murtha & Psoras, our conspiracy charge attorneys know how to defend against these charges and fight to get them dismissed or to achieve massively reduced penalties based on the circumstances of your case. For a free consultation, call us today at (410) 694-7291.