The Conspirator That Wasn’t There

The criminal defense attorneys at Parkman and White, LLC are often asked, “How could I be a part of a conspiracy when I wasn’t there?”

The main reason why prosecutors like to charge conspiracies is because of the Pinkerton doctrine. The doctrine is named for a famous case from the 40’s involving two brothers: Walter and Daniel, who both live together on a farm. Daniel was in prison when Walter was charged with conspiracy to violate the tax code (the brothers were not declaring their moon-shining income). The court found that, even though Daniel was in prison, he could be found guilty of conspiracy because he had once worked with Walter and did not declare the existence of the moon-shining operation.

In more formal terms, to charge conspiracy, the government must prove: 1) an agreement to conduct a specific crime, and 2) an overt act towards the commission of the crime. The trick of conspiracy is that once a person joins the conspiracy, unless they inform the authorities of its existence they remain liable for any acts of a co-conspirator that were reasonably foreseeable and were related to the purpose of the conspiracy.

Pinkerton liability (as the doctrine is called) is often an issue in federal and state conspiracy cases. The attorneys at Parkman and White, LLC can advise you on these and many other criminal matters.