Everyone has heard of criminal conspiracy charges before on the news—often in relation to a sprawling pyramid scheme or a dangerous drug trafficking ring. But did you know that just two people who plan a crime together can also face conspiracy charges?
In Virginia, conspiracy is a surprisingly common charge that can lead to serious prison time, even if you did not actually do anything illegal. If you’ve been accused of conspiracy in Virginia you should start looking for a good conspiracy attorney right away.
What is a Criminal Conspiracy?
Virginia law prohibits many different types of conspiracy. It is illegal to conspire with another person to commit:
- A felony (Virginia Code 18.2-22)
- Trespass or larceny (Virginia Code 18.2-23)
- An offense outlined in the Virginia Drug Control Act (Virginia Code 18.2-256 and 54.1-3400)
- Credit card fraud (Virginia Code 18.2-195)
- A riot (Virginia Code 18.2-408)
- A violation of the regulations of the Virginia Board of Game and Inland Fisheries (Virginia Code 29.1-505.1)
- Restraint of trade (Virginia Code 59.1-9.5)
- A monopoly (Virginia Code 59.1-9.6)
- A rigged government bid (Virginia Code 59.1-68.7)
- Illegal manufacturing and bottling (Virginia Code 4.1-300)
A prosecutor can charge you with conspiracy when you and at least one other person make an agreement to carry out a crime. The crime doesn’t actually need to occur—the prosecutor just needs to show that:
- You made an agreement to do something illegal with another person
- You knew of and intended to commit the crime
- Someone took a concrete step towards committing the crime
Virginia vs. Federal Conspiracy Charges
You can be charged with criminal conspiracy at the state or federal level, depending on the crime you conspired to commit. Conspiracies to commit violations of federal are charged in federal court, and conspiracies to violate Virginia law are prosecuted at the state level. Usually, large fraud or drug trafficking operations will be handled in federal courts. In addition, if the criminal operation crossed state lines, the case will fall under federal jurisdiction. Most conspiracy cases, however, are prosecuted at the state level.
Consequences of a Conspiracy Conviction
If you are arrested for conspiracy, you face the risk of serious jail time and fines.
Federal conspiracy charges are much more serious when there is evidence that you conspired to violate the federal controlled substances act. The prosecutor not have to show that you committed an act—or were even part of the agreement to commit the act in furtherance of the conspiracy—which makes their job much easier. The penalties for conspiracy to distribute drugs are the same for the actual distribution of drugs. Thus, a conviction can result in a prison sentence of dozens of years and thousands of dollars in fines.
In Virginia, a conspiracy conviction may result in the following penalties:
- Conspiracy to commit a capital felony — 5 to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000
- Conspiracy to commit a felony — Up to 10 years in prison and fines reaching $2,500
- Conspiracy to commit a crime punishable by less than 5 years in prison — 12 months in jail and/or $500 fine
- Conspiracy to commit acts of terrorism — Prison sentence of up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $100,000
- Conspiracy to commit larceny or trespass — Prison sentence between 1 and 20 years and fines between $2,500 and $100,000
- Conspiracy to commit credit card fraud — Up to 5 years in prison and fines of $2,500
Because conspiracy is a felony in Virginia, the collateral consequences of a conviction are also severe. Even after serving your time, you may have difficulty finding a job, qualifying for certain professions, owning a firearm, or obtaining housing. In addition, you will no longer be eligible for federal benefits such as student loans or welfare. Your felony conviction will be visible in background checks and you’ll suffer the social stigma associated with being an ex-con. If you are accused of conspiracy, it is vital that you mount an aggressive defense against the charges with the help of an experienced Virginia conspiracy lawyer.
How a Virginia Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help
Any type of conspiracy charge should be taken seriously. It is very difficult to defend against conspiracy charges, since the statutes are written in a way that makes the prosecutor’s job easier than for most crimes. Only a Virginia criminal defense lawyer with experience handling conspiracy cases will be able to build an effective defense against your charges.
If you have been arrested for conspiracy, you should immediately call an attorney to defend you. They will be able to make an honest assessment of the case against you and immediately start working to defeat it. Don’t let law enforcement speak to you without your Virginia conspiracy lawyer present. At Copenhaver, Ellett and Derrico, we have defended complex cases like these in both federal and local courts. Our law firm has an over 50-year track record of achieving successful case outcomes for our Roanoke area clients. Call us today at (540) 343-9349 to set up a free consultation on your case to find out how we may be able to help you.
Facing Criminal Charges in Virginia?
If you’ve been charged with a conspiracy charge in Virginia, the experienced Virginia criminal defense lawyers at Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico can help evaluate the details of your case and your options. For an appointment at our office, call us at (540) 343-9349.