To be convicted of a criminal offense you must actually have committed the offense in question; however, simply agreeing to commit a criminal offense or attempting to commit an offense can also be a punishable criminal offense. In the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, conspiracy is a separate and distinct criminal offense that is often punishable by a lengthy term of imprisonment and/or a hefty fine.
In Boston, a conspiracy exists when two or more people agree to do something unlawful or agree to use unlawful means to do something that is legal. Conspiracy once required an “overt act in furtherance of the agreement”; however, that element of the crime no longer exists. A conspiracy could be something as simple as two teenagers agreeing to go into a store and shoplift with one participant acting as the “lookout” while the other actually pocketed the merchandise. On a much grander scale, a conspiracy could also involve multiple participants planning to defraud the government, shareholders, or unwitting clients or customers through a mail or computer scam. The scale of the crime contemplated does not matter for purposes of a conviction for conspiracy. The scale does matter, however, when it comes to punishment for a conviction.
The potential punishment for a conspiracy conviction in Boston depends on the underlying illegal act contemplated in the agreement. For an agreement to commit an act that amounts to a death sentence or life in prison criminal offense you could receive a fine of up to $10,000 or a term of imprisonment in the state prison for not more than twenty years or in jail for not more than two and one half years, or by both a fine and imprisonment. For an underlying illegal act that is punishable by more than ten years but less than life in prison you face a fine of up to $10,000 and/or imprisonment in the state prison for not more than ten years or a stay in the county jail for not more than two and one half years. For a conspiracy to commit a crime that calls for a punishment of not more than ten years in prison you could be fined up to $5,000 and sentence to a term of imprisonment in the state prison for not more than five years or in jail for not more than two and one half years, or both. Finally, if none of the proceeding scenarios apply you face a fine of up to $2,000 and/or a jail term of up to two and a half years.
One final note, while withdrawing from the conspiracy would likely reduce any punishment, it will not “undo” the crime; once you have entered into a conspiracy, you have committed the crime, despite what you might do afterwards. If you have been accused of the crime of conspiracy in Boston, consult with an experienced Boston criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to determine what legal options you have.
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