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What Is Conspiracy to Commit Murder?
(Definition, Penalties & Defence)

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C.L. Mike Schmidt Published by C.L. Mike Schmidt

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You’re no doubt familiar with the fact that the crime of conspiracy to commit murder will lead to some of the most strict sentences judges can order. People can be charged even if they are indirectly involved.

It could be as little as planning or participating in the plot, and any conspirator arrested could lead to charges against all other participants.

If you, or someone you love, is falsely accused of being involved in a conspiracy, the experienced Schmidt & Clark, LLP criminal defense attorney can assist you. Our team is committed to delivering trustworthy and available legal assistance and is familiar with handling murder charges.     

Quick Summary

  • Conspiracy to commit murder refers to the planned execution of a crime concerning more than one person.
  • You’re convicted of the conspiracy to commit murder sentence as other co-conspirators, meaning you can be subject to a life sentence for first-degree murder.
  • To be found guilty of conspiring to commit murder, a court must determine that the defendant intended to form an agreement with another person or group of people for homicide. Furthermore, there needs to be evidence confirming that some action has been taken in furtherance of this plan.

How Does The Law Define “Conspiracy To Commit Murder”?

A man pointing a gun who is about to commit a murder

The law defines “conspiracy to commit murder” as when the defendant agrees with one or more other people to intentionally and unlawfully kill someone and any of them takes some act in pursuance of such agreement [1].

Purchasing the murder weapon, hiring a "get-away" vehicle, or planning for the supposed victim to be in a specific area at a specific time are all examples of such actions.

What Are The Elements Of The Crime Of Conspiracy To Commit Murder?

A man in the court charged as guiltyThe elements of the crime of conspiracy to commit murder are (1) a mutual agreement or understanding, (2) knowingly entered by the defendant, with (3) an intent to jointly commit a crime [2]. 

Similar to attempted murder, the act doesn't even need to be committed for someone to face the consequences. For example, one may be guilty of conspiracy even if the other party is an undercover police officer.

The courts will consider intent when looking at the allegations of any given party; if it's found that they did not have genuine destructive intentions, they may avoid punishment.

If they find that the arrangement is a joke and that the conspirators won't truly hurt the victim, they will not face any legal repercussions for their actions.

“Examples of conspiracy to murder include hiring a hitman to kill your parents, telling your lover to poison his wife so you can be together, begging your brother to convince his friend to kill your drug dealer to who you owe money, or agreeing to purchase a gun so that your friend can kill his girlfriend’s new lover.”
- Michelle Makela, Legal Practice Director at Armstrong Legal

What Are the Penalties for Conviction of Conspiracy to Commit Murder?

A man who is behind bars and wearing handcuffsThe penalties for conviction of conspiracy to commit murder are imprisonment by up to five years, in addition to a fine depending on where the conviction occurs and the circumstances of the case.

In less aggravated conspiracy cases, offenders could find themselves looking at a probationary period instead of jail time.

Convicts may need to pay required fines and reparations - in addition, or in exchange for facing the harsh reality of incarceration.

Read Also: Negligent Homicide Definition

Is An Explicit Agreement Necessary?

No, an explicit agreement is not necessary. Your actions and behavior may be all the proof needed to prosecute for murderous intentions. Circumstantial evidence has tremendous power in criminal law.

For instance, conspiracy to commit murder charges may apply if you meet up with another person and discuss murder, even if the plans weren’t agreed upon.

What Are Legal Defenses Against Conspiracy Charges?

A lawyer discussing legal defenses against conspiracy chargesLegal defenses against conspiracy charges are withdrawing your participation from the alleged plan, affirming that you haven’t undertaken steps furthering the criminal activity. 

Additionally, asserting that you never agreed to participate with any co-conspirator and commit the actual crime and believing you were acting legally can ensure your innocence is upheld in court.

If you have a highly skilled criminal defense attorney, you might be able to get your criminal conspiracy charges dropped or reduced. 

Even with an underlying murder charge on the table, a lack of evidence can reduce their sentence to manslaughter if they demonstrate that no malicious intent was present when committing the act.

Similarly, for conspiracy offenses - without proof beyond reasonable doubt of an overt act that would aid in carrying out the crime- it may be impossible for prosecutors to build a strong enough case against them.

When facing allegations of participation in a conspiracy, defendants may be able to prove their innocence by invoking the defense of withdrawal; effectively indicating that they distanced themselves from the crime before it progressed further. 

A false allegation is another legal defense that may be invoked if an unjust accusation is made against a person.

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Are You Only Guilty Of the Offense If Found At The Murder Scene?

No, you aren’t only guilty of the offense if found at the murder scene. One person’s accusation may lead to your arrest even if you were never at the murder scene.

What Is An “Overt Act”?

An “overt act” is any behavior (whether criminal or not) that furthers the conspiracy. In other words, it's a step toward committing the target crime.

Get A Free Lawsuit With Our Criminal Defense Lawyer

A criminal defense lawyer should be consulted as soon as possible if you have been accused of committing a crime or are being investigated for one.

Your best option is to speak with a lawyer with experience handling conspiracy matters if your case contains a conspiracy accusation.

Based on your state's charges and the law, our skilled attorneys at Schmidt & Clark, LLP can explain how your case will go through the legal system.

They can also let you know what to anticipate from the appointed judge and prosecutor and help you prepare the defense.