Definition of Conspiracy

In Florida, conspiracy is defined as an agreement by two or more persons to commit a criminal offense, with the intent that the offense will actually be committed.

The crime of conspiracy is codified under Section 777.04(3), Florida Statutes, which provides:

A person who agrees, conspires, combines, or confederates with another person or persons to commit any offense commits the offense of criminal conspiracy.

Required Proof

To prove the crime of conspiracy at trial, the prosecution must prove the following two elements beyond a reasonable doubt:

  1. The intent of the defendant was that the offense would be committed; and
  2. In order to carry the intent, the defendant agreed, combined, or confederated with another person to cause the offense to be committed by either of them, or by one of them, or by some other person.

Agreement and Intent Required

To sustain a conviction for conspiracy, the prosecution must establish both the agreement and actual intent to commit a crime.

Conspiracy is an Independent Offense

The essence of conspiracy is the agreement and the intent of the conspirators to act upon the agreement.

As such, conspiracy is a separate and distinct crime from the offense which the conspirators seek to carry out. Ashenoff v. State, 391 So. 2d 289 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980) (citing Swindle v. State, 254 So. 2d 811 (Fla. 2d DCA 1971).

Acts in Furtherance of Conspiracy

To constitute a conspiracy under Florida law, it is not necessary to show that the defendant did any act in furtherance of the offense conspired.

The agreement and intent alone are sufficient for criminal liability.  Jimenez v. State, 715 So. 2d 1038, 1040 (Fla. 3d DCA 1998) (citing LaPolla v. State, 504 So. 2d 1353, 1357 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987)).

Defenses to Conspiracy

There are many defenses available to contest a charge of conspiracy, including:

Lack of Proof of Agreement

Without competent proof of an agreement, a conspiracy conviction cannot be sustained.

However, Florida law does not require the prosecution to establish the agreement through “direct proof,” such as a writing or eyewitness testimony.  Perry v. State, 155 So. 3d 390, 391-92 (Fla. 1st DCA 2014).

The evidence may be circumstantial, and inferred from the circumstances. Green v. State, 999 So. 2d 1098, 1099 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009); Harris v. State, 450 So. 2d 512, 513-14 (Fla. 4th DCA 1984).

Where the State relies upon circumstantial evidence, the proof presented at trial must be inconsistent with every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. McClain v. State, 709 So. 2d 136, 138 (Fla. 1st DCA 1998).

No Agreement to Commit the Same Offense

The agreement that constitutes the conspiracy must be an agreement to commit the same criminal offense.

  • See Schlicher v. State, 13 So. 3d 515 (Fla. 4th DCA 2009); Green v. State, 999 So. 2d 1098, 1098 (Fla. 5th DCA 2009) (affirming a defendant’s conviction for conspiracy to purchase cocaine because the evidence established that the co-conspirators had a common purpose to commit the crime of purchase of cocaine).

Stated another way, a conspirator must intend and agree to a crime, which, if completed, satisfies all of the elements of the crime also contemplated by the other conspirator.  Salinas v. U.S., 522 U.S. 52 (1997); Doorbal v. State, 983 So. 2d 464 (Fla. 2008).

Mere Presence at the Scene

Mere presence at the scene of a criminal transaction is insufficient to establish a conspiracy.  Pennington v. State, 526 So. 2d 87 (Fla. 4th DCA 1987) (reversing conspiracy conviction where defendant was merely present at the scene and aided in its commission without knowing the nature of the contraband transferred).

Mere Aiding and Abetting

A conspiracy may not be inferred from aiding and abetting alone. Ashenoff v. State, 391 So. 2d 289 (Fla. 3d DCA 1980) (reversing conviction where the State relied on aiding and abetting alone, and failed to present evidence of an agreement and an intention to commit the offense).

Minimal Involvement Without Agreement

The elements of a conspiracy are not met where a defendant’s connection to a criminal transaction appears to have been minimal, and is not shown to be the product of a consensual undertaking. Rodriguez v. State, 643 So. 2d 111 (Fla. 2d DCA 1994) (citing Jimenez v. State, 535 So. 2d 343 (Fla. 2d DCA 1988)).

A conspiracy conviction will be upheld, however, where a defendant’s involvement becomes more extensive, such as with repeated drug sales for the same supplier. Pallin v. State, 965 So. 2d 1226, 1227 (Fla. 1st DCA 2007).

Penalties for Conspiracy

The penalties available for criminal conspiracy are described in § 777.04(3), Florida Statutes.  A conspiracy crime is ranked one level below the offense severity ranking that would have been given to the object offense under Florida’s Criminal Punishment Code (Section 921.022, Florida Statutes).

For example, Sale or Delivery of Cocaine is classified as a second degree felony carrying a Level 5 Offense Severity Ranking under the Florida Criminal Punishment Code.  A conspiracy for that offense will be assigned a Level 4 Severity Ranking .

Contact an Attorney

Conspiracy is one of the most technical areas of practice in Florida criminal law, and no person should attempt to resolve their case without first consulting with an attorney.

Contact  Hussein & Webber, PL for a free consultation.