There are two ways that a Prosecutor can secure a conviction against you for a crime you didn’t commit: Attempt and Conspiracy. Attempt is when you attempt to commit a crime on your own, whereas Conspiracy comes up when you plan with others to commit a crime. The Attempt and Conspiracy statutes can also be a powerful tool for a Defense Attorney if a conviction is imminent. There is a statute that allows a Prosecutor to change a conviction for a crime to a “Criminal Attempt” or a “Criminal Conspiracy” conviction, which could be more favorable result.
In Georgia, Criminal Attempt is defined under O.C.G.A. § 16-4-1: “…when, with intent to commit a specific crime, he performs any act which constitutes a substantial step toward the commission of that crime.”
Criminal Conspiracy is defined under O.C.G.A. § 16-4-8: “…when he together with one or more persons conspires to commit any crime and any one or more of such persons does any overt act to effect the object of the conspiracy.”
The key to these statutes is the concept of an “overt act” or “substantial step”, which Georgia courts use interchangeably. This means that after a Defendant decided they wanted to commit a crime, they took an action towards making the crime happen. Not all actions will constitute an overt act or substantial step, however. “Mere acts of preparation” are not enough to satisfy the overt act or substantial step requirements. Additionally, the action must be inexplicable as a lawful act. The court has even said that “procuring or loading a gun, or buying poison, or walking to a particular place, with intent to kill another, is not enough to make one guilty of an attempt to commit murder.” Another example (taken from the case discussed below) is that while making lists of intended victims and supplies might amount to mere acts of preparation, the act of bringing a gun to school would be a substantial step.
The critical difference between Criminal Attempt and Criminal Conspiracy is whether you acted alone or with others. It’s important to note that for a Criminal Conspiracy, you yourself don’t have to be the one to take a substantial step or overt act- if ANYBODY involved in the conspiracy or planning takes a substantial step, it’s enough to secure a conviction against you.
The punishment for Criminal Attempt or Criminal Conspiracy depends on whether the crime allegedly attempted or conspired to commit is a Misdemeanor, a Felony, or a Felony punishable by life imprisonment or a death sentence. For a Misdemeanor, the punishment is the same as for Misdemeanors generally, which is a fine not to exceed $1,000, incarceration for up to 12 months, or both. For Felonies, the punishment would be imprisonment for not less than one year and not more than one-half of the term for the underlying crime, by one-half of the maximum fine for the underlying crime, or both. For Felonies punishable by death or life imprisonment, the sentence will be 1-30 years of imprisonment for Attempt and 1-10 years for Conspiracy.
The full text of the statutes governing punishment for Criminal Attempt and Criminal Conspiracy are found under O.C.G.A. § 16-4-6 and O.C.G.A. § 16-4-8.
No Substantial Step Criminal Attempt and Criminal Conspiracy charges typically occur when a crime was planned but not committed and a substantial step was taken. If the Prosecutor cannot prove a substantial step, they cannot secure a conviction. Acts that are “mere preparation” are not enough to constitute a substantial step. There is grey area between “substantial steps” and “mere preparation”, and a skilled Defense Attorney can argue that whatever act the Prosecutor is relying on for a substantial step can only be viewed as mere preparation.
Lack of Knowledge For Criminal Conspiracy, you have to plan with others for actions to take place which satisfy all elements of a given crime. For example, to secure a conviction for Armed Robbery, the Prosecutor must prove that everybody conspired to steal items of value, and that they conspired to do so through use of force. This means that if you were charged as a co-conspirator and planned to supply the other Defendants with firearms but had no idea that items of value would be taken, you personally didn’t conspire to commit the crime of Armed Robbery and could not be convicted of Criminal Conspiracy, even if the other defendants did possess such knowledge.
Withdrawal A co-conspirator can be relieved of a Criminal Conspiracy charge if their Defense Attorney can show that before any substantial step or overt act occurred, they withdrew their agreement to commit a crime.
In Stapleton v. State, defendant Jackson Stapleton created a list of 52 individuals of persons to be targeted for murder and created a list of supplies to carry out the murders, and brought a firearm to Pataula Charter School, where presumably the murders were intended to occur. The court held that making a list of intended victims and supplies, procuring a gun, or walking to a particular place with intent to kill alone would be insufficient to cross from preparation to intent. The line was crossed when the Defendant brought the gun to the school, however, which was a “direct movement towards the commission after the preparations were made.”
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If you have been charged with Attempt or Conspiracy and need the best local criminal Defense Attorney, give Bixon Law a call today to speak to one of our experienced Georgia criminal defense lawyers. We will vigorously defend your criminal defense rights, and advocate on your behalf to have your criminal case dismissed or your charges reduced. As experienced trial attorneys, we are not afraid to take your case to trial if necessary. We represent clients in Atlanta and throughout the state of Georgia. We are lawyers who are committed to helping people in difficult situations, and we invite you to call us at 404-551-5684 for a free consultation on your case today.