When you and your partners originally started talking about a money-making scheme that you knew was illegal under federal law, it was almost a joke — until the conversation turned serious. Initially, you couldn’t help but think that it would be almost too easy to get away with the crime, so you said, “I’m in.”
Then you thought better of it and said, “I’m out.” Unfortunately, your partners went ahead with their plan. Now, they’ve been caught and you’ve been charged with conspiracy right beside them.
Is withdrawal from a conspiracy an actual defense?
Withdrawal can be used as a defense to federal conspiracy charges under certain circumstances, but you need to remember that it’s an affirmative defense: The burden is on you to prove that you abandoned your plans and changed course.
In addition, you generally have to be able to show (among other things) that you withdrew from the conspiracy agreement completely and clearly. It’s not enough to simply do nothing and avoid messages and calls from the other members of the group without telling them you quit.
Plus, you also have to show that you withdrew from the conspiracy prior to the point where any of the overt criminal acts took place. Once the crime has been initiated, it’s too late to get cold feet and back out if you want to avoid prosecution.
Are you being charged as a conspirator in a federal crime?
The long arm of the law has tremendous reach, indeed, when you’re talking about the federal government. If you’re facing conspiracy charges, the wisest thing you can do is invoke your right to remain silent until you can fully explore the defense possibilities.