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Criminal Law Spring 2017

VII.B. Conspiracy

Conspiracy, unlike complicity, is a standalone crime. Its requirements are very minimal: at common law, only an agreement to commit unlawful actions. The agreement, itself, is the actus reus. Under federal law, an act in furtherance is needed to seal the conspiracy. Often, proving conspiracy is much easier than proving a completed or attempted crime, and so conspiracy has become a favorite tool of prosecutors to lower the burden of proof, accumulate charges, or increase the number of people implicated in a crime. As you read these cases, consider the distinctions between conspiracy and complicity. Consider also how far liability extends. What is the mens rea for the crime of conspiracy itself? What mens rea is necessary for the subsequent crimes committed in furtherance of the conspiracy? How do the various formulations of conspiracy liability interact with the justifications of punishment—retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation?