Conspiracy to commit a crime – whether the planned crime takes place or not – is a criminal act that can be charged as a felony under Florida law. However, not all communications about a potential crime amount to conspiracy, and it is critical to distinguish idle and unserious talk from active engagement in a criminal conspiracy.
How Florida Law Defines Conspiracy
Under Florida’s Conspiracy Statute, Sec. 777.04(3) of the Florida Statutes, conspiracy charges come into play when any person “agrees, conspires, combines, or confederates” with another person or persons to commit any criminal offense under Florida law.
Florida’s Standard Jury Instructions regarding conspiracy under Sec. 777.04(3) explain that the State must prove two main elements beyond a reasonable doubt:
- The defendant intended that a particular criminal offense would be committed;
- In order to carry out that intent, the defendant agreed or conspired with another person or group to cause that crime to be committed.
There aren’t any “magic words” that must be shown to turn a conversation into a criminal conspiracy. The prosecution may in most cases need to show that, beyond discussion of the crime, the defendant took some kind of act in furtherance of the crime. For example, this could include purchasing materials, providing directions, or supplying computer passwords to another person or group.
If the elements of criminal conspiracy can be shown, Florida statutes generally allow conspiracy to be charged one level below the crime itself. (For example, conspiring to commit a 2nd degree felony would be charged as a 3rd degree felony.) The crime of conspiracy can be charged on its own, or in combination with the planned crime if it was in fact carried out.
Potential Defenses to Criminal Conspiracy Charges Under Florida Law
Because of the complicated and sometimes vague nature of conspiracy discussions, a defendant may have several well-founded defenses to a conspiracy allegation.
One primary affirmative defense to conspiracy under Florida law is that, after conspiring to commit a crime, the defendant:
- Took action to prevent commission of the crime;
- Acted in a manner indicating a complete and voluntary renunciation of their criminal purpose.
Other defenses may include:
- The defendant’s statements were made in jest or were otherwise not meant to be taken seriously;
- The prosecution has no evidence demonstrating an agreement between the defendant and others;
- The defendant did not discuss or contemplate the crime that was actually committed (for example, they agreed to protest at a business but not to break windows or rob the store);
- The defendant abandoned plans to participate in the conspiracy in its early stages.
When to Contact an Attorney Regarding Conspiracy Allegations or Charges
It is essential to retain a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney when facing a criminal conspiracy charge. Our Tampa conspiracy attorneys at Trombley & Hanes have years of experience in dealing with this type of issue, and know what techniques the prosecution may use to obtain a conviction. Most importantly, we know what your legal rights are in this situation, and what crucial defenses you may have to build your case. If you are being investigated or charged in relation to an alleged conspiracy, talk to our criminal defense attorneys at Trombley & Hanes in Tampa. Call our office today at 813-229-7918, or complete an online questionnaire to get started. Your legal rights are too important to let time slip by.