With O.J. Simpson being charged with conspiracy recently I have received a lot of inquiries regarding the necessary elements required for the State to prove a conspiracy. Conspiracy requires basically four elements: 1) There must be an agreement: This is the essence of a conspiracy. The agreement need not be express; it can be implied based on a “concert of action”. An example is a group beating up an individual even though they never spoke regarding the agreement. 2) The individuals involved in the conspiracy need to be pursuing an unlawful objective. Basically, the purpose of the conspiracy must be an illegal one. 3) There must be an overt act: The majority of States require this even though it is not constitutionally based. Any act will do, even if the act is preparatory in nature. This act basically must show intent to do what they did. 4) Specific Intent: Conspiracy is a specific intent crime—the highest level of intent, the mens rea aspect of the crime, must be present. They must intend to agree and intend to commit the underlying crime. If these four elements are met then the State can prove a conspiracy.
Conspirators can withdraw from a conspiracy and this is governed by the Pinkerton doctrine. Conspirators are liable for all crimes they commit and all crimes committed by their co-conspirators provided: 1) the crimes were in the scope of the conspiracy; 2) the crimes were in furtherance of the conspiracy; and 3) the crimes were foreseeable from the creation of the conspiracy. In order to withdraw from a conspiracy, the conspirator must let his co-conspirators know of his withdrawal in a matter reasonably calculated to reach them and it must reach them in time for the co-conspirators to terminate their conduct in furtherance of the conspiracy. Moreover, once a conspirator successfully withdraws from the conspiracy, the withdrawal only stops their liability going forward: they are still responsible for the conspiracy itself and for prior offenses committed (by themselves and their co-conspirators) in furtherance of the conspiracy. This concludes our discussion of the elements necessary to constitute a conspiracy.