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When Can You be Charged With “Criminal Conspiracy” in Maryland?

When prosecutors believe that two or more people agreed to commit a certain crime, all of the participants in that agreement may be charged with criminal conspiracy. A conspiracy charge does not require proof that the crime was successfully completed. Nor does the government need to prove that each conspirator participated in every aspect of the alleged crime. The agreement itself is the crime.

Conspiracy is a type of common-law crime rather than a specific statutory offense. The Maryland Court of Appeals has defined conspiracy to mean the “combination of two or more persons to accomplish some unlawful purpose, or to accomplish a lawful purpose by unlawful means.” In most cases, there will not be an express or written agreement among the conspirators. For that reason, a judge or jury may infer the formation of a conspiracy based on other evidence presented at trial.

Man Convicted of Second-Degree Assault for Role in “Group” Confrontation That Resulted in Shooting

A recent unreported decision from the Maryland Court of Special Appeals, Jones v. State, provides a helpful illustration. In this case, a jury found the defendant guilty of conspiracy to commit second-degree assault. The defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal.

Here is what the jury heard. A group of people, including the defendant, approached the victim in this case while he was shopping at a store near his house. Someone in the group told the victim that he “owed them money.”

After the victim left the store and started driving home, another member of this group texted him and said “they were going to be at my house.” The victim said he saw members of the group following him home. After arriving home, he saw the defendant “looking through the mail slot in his door.” The victim then grabbed a gun, opened the door, and pointed the weapon at the defendant. Other members of the group were also present, including one man who was also brandishing a gun.

Gunfire erupted. The victim was hit twice in the arm. The victim initially said the defendant was the shooter. But the police later identified the other man who was holding a gun as also having shot the victim.

From these facts, the appellate court said the jury was entitled to conclude, as it did, that the defendant and the second gunman had entered into a criminal conspiracy to assault the victim. Practically speaking, it did not matter if the defendant actually shot the victim or whether he was one of two shooters. The mere fact that the defendant had acted in concert with this “group” to confront–and eventually assault–the victim was sufficient proof of an “unlawful agreement” among the conspirators. The Court of Special Appeals therefore affirmed the defendant’s conviction for conspiracy to commit second-degree assault.

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This article has been provided by the Law Office of Robert Castro. For more information or questions contact our office to speak to an experienced lawyer at (301) 705-5137.