What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove in a Conspiracy Case?

Female prosecutor working on her conspiracy case.

In Florida, the crime of conspiracy refers to an agreement, express or implied, between two or more people to commit a criminal offense. The conspirators must have the intent to actually commit the crime. The punishment for being convicted of conspiracy will be based on the severity of the crime the conspirators intended to commit. 

In fact, under Florida law, the conspiracy crime will be ranked one level below the intended crime. This means that the applicable penalties will depend on what would have been imposed if the intended crime had been committed. For example, if the underlying crime the conspirators intended to commit was a capital felony, they could be charged with a first-degree felony for conspiracy. This means the conspirators would face up to 30 years in prison, up to 30 years of probation, and up to $10,000 in fines.

What Does the Prosecutor Need to Prove in a Conspiracy Case?

The prosecutor for the State of Florida carries the burden of proving a conspiracy case beyond a reasonable doubt. This is the highest standard of proof that exists in the law. The prosecutor must prove every element of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Section 777.04(3), Florida Statutes, defines the crime of conspiracy as “A person who agrees, conspires, combines, or confederates with another person or persons to commit any offense commits the offense of criminal conspiracy.” This means that the prosecution must prove the two elements of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt. The two elements are:

  • That the defendant intended to commit the criminal offense; and
  • The defendant, in order to carry out the intent, agreed, conspired, combined, or confederated, with another person to have the offense committed by one of them, both of them, or by some other person. 

In short, the prosecution must prove both an intent to commit a crime and the agreement to commit the crime. Florida does not require proof that there was any action taken by the defendant to further the plan to commit the conspired upon offense. The agreement and the intent are enough to hold the defendant criminally liable for conspiracy.

Because the prosecution carries the burden of proving the two elements of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt, one effective defense strategy is to undermine the State’s case for either or both of these elements. For instance, the defense may assert that the prosecution lacks competent proof of an agreement. While there is no requirement for the prosecution to use “direct proof” to establish an agreement, such as with eyewitness testimony or written documentation, the defense may look to undermine any circumstantial evidence provided by the prosecution in an attempt to establish an agreement. The defense may also look to show that there is not adequate proof that the defendant ever actually intended to commit the criminal offense.

Contact Herman Law Today

A conspiracy charge may relate to any level of a criminal offense, but they are often applied in cases that involve serious crimes such as high ranking felonies. In either case, if you are facing criminal conspiracy charges, you stand to have some severe penalties imposed upon you should you be found guilty. Attorney Ron Herman is an experienced and skilled criminal defense attorney who tirelessly advocates for his clients as they face the criminal justice system. Contact Herman Law, P.A. today.