A conspiracy exists as long as measures are taken to conceal evidence of the crime. A person who did not participate in the original agreement can become a coconspirator after the actual criminal act if the person joins in the concealment of the conspiracy. Whether a coconspirator received personal benefit or profit is of no importance.
Generally, conspirators are liable for all crimes committed within the course or scope of the conspiracy. The application of this general rule varies from state to state. Ordinarily, an act is within the course or scope of the conspiracy if it is a foreseeable result of the agreement. In some states, a conspirator is not liable where he or she has no knowledge of the specific act and argues successfully that the act was beyond the scope of the conspiracy. Also, if the purpose of the agreement is later changed by coconspirators, a conspirator who did not participate in the alteration may not be held liable for the new conspiracy. A person is liable for conspiracy only in regard to the meaning of the agreement as he or she understands it.
In some jurisdictions, a person may be guilty of conspiracy even if a coconspirator is immune from prosecution. For example, if two persons conspire to commit murder and one is found to have been insane at the time of the killing, the other conspirator may not be exempt from prosecution for conspiracy.
One who provides services to conspirators will not be guilty of conspiracy if that person has not participated in the agreement and does not know that a conspiracy exists. There must be a willful participation in the conspiracy, as well as an intent to further the common purpose or design for conspiratorial liability. Therefore, aiding a conspiracy by selling material to further it does not make someone a conspirator if the person does not know of the conspiracy, even if that person knows the goods sold will be used for an unlawful purpose. However, if the circumstances indicate a conspiracy, one who cooperates and knowingly sells goods for illegal use may be guilty of conspiracy.
Generally, if a number of conspirators agree to carry out different functions in furtherance of the conspiracy, the agreement constitutes a single conspiracy. This is so even if the different functions amount to more than one unlawful purpose. In some states, however, the different functions may constitute multiple conspiracies if there is an agreement to commit more than one crime.
Punishment for the crime of conspiracy is ordinarily defined by statute and varies in accordance with the conspiracy's objective. For example, a conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor will not be subject to the same punishment as a conspiracy to commit a felony. Conspiracy may be alleged in a civil case if the plaintiff has suffered an injury as a result of the conspiracy. Civil conspiracy is ordinarily not a CAUSE OF ACTION, but the existence of a conspiracy may be used in determining the amount of damages in a civil action and the respective liabilities of civil codefendants for the payment of damages.
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