Watch Who You Run With!
According to Merriam-Webster.com, conspiracy is a word that originates from the 14th century, and means “a secret plan made by two or more people to do something that is harmful or illegal.” The definition provided by Merriam-Webster is how most of us would think to define the word, and it’s really not all that different from the legal definition.
Conspiracy in Pennsylvania is codified in 18 Pa. Section 903, titled Criminal Conspiracy. According to Section 903, “A person is guilty of conspiracy with another person or persons to commit a crime if with the intent of promoting or facilitating its commission he: (1) agrees with such other person or persons that they or one or more of them will engage in conduct which constitutes such crime or an attempt or solicitation to commit such crime; or (2) agrees to aid such other person or persons in the planning or commission of such crime or of an attempt or solicitation to commit such crime.” 18 Pa. Section 903(a).
To be guilty of conspiracy, two elements must be met: 1) there must be an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime, and 2) one of the parties to that agreement must take an overt action in furtherance of the agreement. Generally, an overt action in furtherance of the agreement to commit a crime must be something more than just the planning. For example, if two parties sitting at a bar agree to rob the gas station next door, and one of the parties runs out and buys a gun, that would most likely be an overt act in furtherance of the agreement to rob the gas station. Another example would be if one of the parties left the bar and went to the gas station to scope it out for cameras or a backdoor exit.
What is most important to realize about conspiracy in Pennsylvania is that a conspiracy charge is graded the same way as the underlying crime that the parties conspired to commit. In the example discussed above with the gas station, both parties who conspired in the bar would be charged with conspiracy to commit robbery, which is a very serious felony charge. Let’s say that the parties at the bar reach this agreement to rob the gas station, but only one of the parties actually walks over and does it? In Pennsylvania, both parties are guilty of the conspiracy because only one of the parties to the agreement needs to take an overt act in furtherance of the agreement.
Finally, it’s very important to know that conspiracy is its own crime in Pennsylvania, meaning the actors in our example would be charged with the robbery of the gas station, as well as a conspiracy to commit the robbery, and the conspiracy will be graded the same way as the actual robbery. For sentencing purposes, the conspiracy charge and the offense for which the parties conspired to commit are two separate offenses that will each carry their own sentence. Pennsylvania is different from many other states in this respect; in many states the conspiracy and the underlying crime merge for sentencing purposes, but not in Pennsylvania.
If you’ve been charged with a conspiracy under 18 Pa. Section 903, contact one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Scaringi Law at 717 775 7195.