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Criminal Law (Darryl Brown)


Roughly put, conspiracy is the crime of agreeing with another to commit a crime; the act of agreement is the core of the offense. Some statutes require also that one of the conspirators do  some (perhaps minimal and legal) "over act" toward accomplishing the substantive offense; others do not. Under federal law and the law of some states (but not all, and not under the law of England or other common law countries), a defendant can be convicted for both conspiracy to commit an offense and--if completed--also the substantive offense itself. In Pinkerton v. United States, 328 U.S. 640 (1946), the Supreme Court affirmed the convictions of petitioners who were convicted of a conspiracy to violate the Internal Revenue Code and of several substantive violations of the Code and were sentenced both for the conspiracy and for the substantive offenses. Pinkerton has two key holdings: (1) Where an indictment charges both a conspiracy to engage in a course of criminal conduct and a series of substantive offenses committed pursuant to the conspiracy, the substantive offenses are not merged into the conspiracy. Upon conviction, the accused may be punished both for the conspiracy and for the substantive offenses. (2) Additionally, a party to a continuing conspiracy may be responsible for substantive offenses committed by a co-conspirator in furtherance of the conspiracy, even though he does not participate in the substantive offenses or have any knowledge of them.