Prince William County Conspiracy Lawyer
The criminal code in Prince William County, Virginia generally serves to punish people who break the law. To secure a conviction, a prosecutor generally needs to prove that a defendant committed an illegal act as defined under Commonwealth law.
One key exception to this rule is the offense of conspiracy, through which merely agreeing to commit a crime with another person is illegal in and of itself. Commonwealth law allows a court to punish all members of a conspiracy.
Defending yourself against charges of conspiracy can be a complex legal undertaking. Fortunately, a Prince William County conspiracy lawyer may be able to help. They could thoroughly explain the charges, build a defense tailored to your unique situation, and help protect your freedom at every step of the case.
Conspiracy as a Participatory Offense
As a general rule, there is no crime involved in associating with other people. The concept of free association is central to the Constitution, and police should not arrest a person simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or having friends who have committed crimes.
However, an exception applies when it comes to planning a crime. Specifically, Code of Virginia §18.2-22 states that it is illegal for any person to conspire to commit a felony. A person conspires to commit an offense when they have an agreement to commit a crime with at least one other person.
Proof of an agreement to commit an offense is not enough to secure a conviction. Prosecutors must also prove that the participants took a substantial step towards committing that offense.
For example, if the charges involve conspiracy to rob a bank, substantial steps may include:
- Arranging for transportation
- Making an escape route
- Securing weapons
As a result, defendants in conspiracy cases may argue both that there was never an agreement to commit an offense or that they never took a step towards a crime. A local lawyer could help clarify the Commonwealth’s conspiracy laws and what the prosecutor needs to prove.
Potential Penalties Upon a Conspiracy Conviction
Conspiracy convictions range in severity depending upon the nature of the agreed-upon crime. For most felonies, the language of Va. Code. Ann. §18.2-22 applies. This statute says that if the conspired offense is a capital one, the penalty for conviction is a Class 3 felony. Non-capital felonies are Class 5 felonies, and instances where committing the core offense can involve no more than five years in prison carry a maximum prison sentence of one year.
Conspiracy laws also apply special sentencing rules to convictions involving conspiracy to distribute drugs. Under Va. Code. Ann. §18.2-256, conspiracy to violate any of the Commonwealth’s drug laws carries identical penalties to violations of those laws themselves.
Finally, it is possible to face conspiracy charges related to misdemeanors in limited scenarios. Va. Code. Ann. §18.2-23 creates charges of conspiracy for people who join together to commit criminal trespassing and larceny in excess of $500 in value. As a result, a conviction for conspiracy is always a serious matter that will create a criminal record and is likely to result in jail time. A conspiracy lawyer in the area could help a defendant avoid these penalties.
A Prince William County Conspiracy Attorney May Provide Assistance
People who are facing conspiracy charges are likely to be confused and frightened. This is understandable since conspiracy laws are one of a few instances under Virginia law where a person can face punishment even if they do not commit the underlying crime.
A Prince William County conspiracy lawyer could help to protect you against these charges. They could provide more information about conspiracy in general, help discover why a prosecutor has filed charges, and develop a defense to convince a jury that you had nothing to do with the alleged criminal enterprise. Call today to set up a consultation with a skilled attorney to learn more about the next steps to take in your case.