Law in Contemporary Society

View   r4  >  r3  >  r2  >  r1
BrayanASecondEssay 4 - 07 Jun 2022 - Main.BrayanA
Line: 1 to 1
 
META TOPICPARENT name="SecondEssay"

Conspiracy Doctrine: A Prosecutors Tool

Changed:
<
<
-- By BrayanA - 27 Apr 2022
>
>
-- By BrayanA - 7 June 2022
 

The Crime of Conspiracy

Changed:
<
<
A common law conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a criminal act or to accomplish a legal action by unlawful means. Examples would be two or more individuals plotting a robbery or a murder. It is an aspect of conspiracy crimes that the criminal objective – such as robbery or murder – need not be realized to punish the individuals criminally. Such is the case because the criminal justice system punishes individuals for something other than completing the offense. Thus, a prosecutor may convict a person of conspiracy before effectuating any acts in preparation for the substantive crime. Therefore, the crime of conspiracy is an unprecedented and highly controversial doctrine.
>
>
A common law conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a criminal act or to accomplish a legal action by unlawful means. Examples would be two or more individuals plotting a robbery or a murder. It is an aspect of conspiracy crimes that the criminal objective – such as robbery or murder – need not be realized to punish the individuals criminally. Such is the case because the criminal justice system punishes individuals for something other than completing the offense. Thus, a prosecutor may convict a person of conspiracy before effectuating any acts in preparation for the substantive crime. Most egregious, however, is how conspiracy undermines the rules of evidence and turns the doctrine into an unjust prosecutorial tool making the crime of conspiracy an unprecedented and highly controversial doctrine.
 Proponents of conspiracy crimes divide justifications for conspiracy into the "specific object" and "group-danger" rationales (See Developments). The specific object rationale emphasizes preventative law enforcement through the use of conspiracy as an inchoate offense. Generally, the conspiracy doctrine justifies police intervention much earlier than is permitted under attempt law. As for the group danger rationale, the proponents claim that inherent dangers exist in collective criminal actions that do not exist on the individual level. Yet, either of these rationales fails to address conspiracy law’s fundamental issues.

BrayanASecondEssay 3 - 07 Jun 2022 - Main.BrayanA
Line: 1 to 1
 
META TOPICPARENT name="SecondEssay"

Changed:
<
<

The Unprecedented Crime of Conspiracy

>
>

Conspiracy Doctrine: A Prosecutors Tool

 -- By BrayanA - 27 Apr 2022

The Crime of Conspiracy

Changed:
<
<
A crime in the United States typically consists of a mens rea and an actus reus. In other words, to be convicted of a crime, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant realized a voluntary act that is the actual and proximate cause (actus reus) of the prohibited social harm with the requisite mental state (mens rea). Abiding by this standard is fundamental to the criminal justice system that punishes criminal offenders by taking their life, liberty, or property. The criminal justice system can only justify such a severe punishment by adhering to a high standard of criminal liability, which most criminal law doctrines do. However, the crime of conspiracy is an inchoate and complicity doctrine that has no place in criminal law.
>
>
A common law conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a criminal act or to accomplish a legal action by unlawful means. Examples would be two or more individuals plotting a robbery or a murder. It is an aspect of conspiracy crimes that the criminal objective – such as robbery or murder – need not be realized to punish the individuals criminally. Such is the case because the criminal justice system punishes individuals for something other than completing the offense. Thus, a prosecutor may convict a person of conspiracy before effectuating any acts in preparation for the substantive crime. Therefore, the crime of conspiracy is an unprecedented and highly controversial doctrine.
 
Changed:
<
<
A common law conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a criminal act or to accomplish a legal act by unlawful means. Examples would be two or more individuals plotting a robbery or assassination. It is an aspect of conspiracy crimes that an actor's criminal objective – such as robbery or assassination – need not be realized to punish the individuals criminally. Thus, the crime for which the criminal justice system punishes individuals is something other than completing the offense. A person may be convicted of conspiracy before they effectuate any acts in preparation of the substantive crime. As such, the crime of conspiracy is an unprecedented and highly controversial doctrine.
>
>
Proponents of conspiracy crimes divide justifications for conspiracy into the "specific object" and "group-danger" rationales (See Developments). The specific object rationale emphasizes preventative law enforcement through the use of conspiracy as an inchoate offense. Generally, the conspiracy doctrine justifies police intervention much earlier than is permitted under attempt law. As for the group danger rationale, the proponents claim that inherent dangers exist in collective criminal actions that do not exist on the individual level. Yet, either of these rationales fails to address conspiracy law’s fundamental issues.
 
Added:
>
>

Darling of the Modern Prosecutor's Nursery

 
Changed:
<
<

Justifications and Critiques of the Crime of Conspiracy

>
>
First, a successful conspiracy law conviction is often reliant on circular logic. Along with an agreement, prosecutors must show the existence of an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy to prove a conspiracy conviction successfully. However, the overact need not be illegal and can be a minor act or an act that is usually constitutionally protected (See Yates). For example, a jury could find that the defendants have agreed to kidnap a woman for prostitution because the two parties made a phone call to each other (see Smith). Although generally making a phone call is not a criminal act, in a conspiracy case, prosecutors can use such facts to establish an overt act in furtherance of the conspiracy because we know the defendants have agreed to commit the crime in the first place. Thus, the over act "requirement is seldom more than a formality"(Conspiracy 878).
 
Changed:
<
<
Before discussing critiques of conspiracy law, it will be beneficial to explain the doctrines' proposed justifications. Proponents of conspiracy crimes divide justifications for conspiracy into the "specific object" and "group-danger" rationales. The specific object rationale emphasizes preventative law enforcement through the use of conspiracy as an inchoate offense. Generally, the conspiracy doctrine justifies police intervention much earlier than is permitted under attempt law. As for the group danger rationale, the proponents claim that inherent dangers exist in collective criminal actions that do not exist on the individual level. We will begin by discussing the latter rationale.
>
>
From this follows conspiracy’s most egregious flaw, the relaxation of the rules of evidence in favor of the prosecutor. Since conspiracies are generally secretive, prosecutors are granted wide latitude “in presenting evidence, and it is within the discretion of the trial court to admit evidence which even remotely tends to establish the conspiracy charged” (See Nye & Nissen 857). In other words, courts ease the standard rules of evidence and allow for prosecution based on inferences from the circumstances of the apparent association regardless of logical association to the crime charged (Arens 251) (Developments 984).
 
Added:
>
>
Moreover, a prima facie case of conspiracy then grants prosecutors the possibility to admit into evidence any statement made by a co-conspirator – during the time of the conspiracy and which concerns the conspiracy– against all other co-conspirators (“hearsay exception”) ( See Carnahan 103). The criminal justice system further facilitates such heinous action through the Pinkerton doctrine, which establishes vicarious liability in conspiracy cases even for offenses a defendant did not engage in or for which the defendant did not have actual knowledge (Newton 50). Consequently, the large volume of evidence involved in a case concerning multiple defendants can overwhelm a jury – not to mention the likelihood that the “jury will infer association among the defendants merely from the fact that they are being tried together” (Developments 980-981).
 
Changed:
<
<

Specific Object Justification

The specific objective rationale is concerned with the intersection between conspiracy and an attempt to commit a crime (CR Snyman72). Like conspiracy, attempt is an inchoate crime that seeks to punish the actor before achieving their criminal goal. Criminal attempt occurs when an individual with an intent to commit an offense carries out a substantial step, beyond preparation, toward the commission of the crime (Model Penal Code 27.09[D]). In contrast, conspiracy punishes an actor at a much earlier stage in the process of committing a crime. Whereas attempt punishes an actor after taking a substantial step towards the commission of a crime, conspiracy punishes an actor for mere conspiracy to commit a crime. The justification for earlier intervention in conspiracy is that conspiracy is "concrete and unambiguous; it does not present the infinite degrees and variations possible in the general category of attempts" (Model Penal Code 5.03 Commentary). Thus, it is less likely with conspiracy than with attempt that, equivocal behavior will be mistaken as preparation to commit a crime. This rationale has become the justification for punishing conspiracy as a crime.

Yet, this rationale does little to address the fundamental issue of conspiracy – the unprecedented emphasis on mens rea coupled with a de-emphasis on the actus reus. With attempt, the mens rea is the intent to commit an offense, and the actus reus is the substantial step taken towards the commission of the crime. With conspiracy, the men's rea is the intent to agree and the intent to commit the target crime, and the actus reus is the formation of an agreement (Cortez). In other words, drawing parallel to attempt, the substantial step in conspiracy is the agreement itself, which is a trivial action as far as other criminal law doctrines are concerned. In reality, conspiracy law punishes intent alone. As such, conspiracy blurs the line between punishing an action taken to prepare for the commission of a crime and punishing thoughts, which are otherwise never a criminal offense.

Group-Danger Justification

The group-danger rationale follows from a presumption that those who conspire to commit a crime are less likely to abandon their intent before the commission of the crime – "the actor knows . . . that the future is no longer governed by his will alone; others may complete what he has had a hand in starting" (Model Penal Code 5.03 Commentary). Similarly, punishing conspiracy is justified in that two or more actors agreeing to commit a crime are deemed more dangerous to society than an individual who intends to commit the same crime. As noted by Justice Jackson, "the strength, opportunities, and resources of many is obviously more dangerous and more difficult to police than the efforts of a lone wrongdoer." This rationale has become the justification for why conspiracy can punish actions that otherwise alone would not be illegal.

Whether or not these claims have empirical support is irrelevant. The same fundamental problems that arise with the specific-object rationale also apply to the group-danger rationale. Furthermore, the ability to punish group actions that would otherwise not be illegal is too powerful of a tool for prosecutors to wield at their discretion Judge Learned Hand has characterized the conspiracy doctrine as the "darling of the modern prosecutor's nursery," which prosecutors have historically used to suppress public outrage against government policies (Dennis; Yates; Spock; Dellinger).

>
>
It is no surprise that Judge Learned Hand has labeled conspiracy as the “darling of the modern prosecutor’s nursery.” Charges of conspiracy can increase the conviction rate for a substantive charge, likely due to the hearsay exception (Marcus 940). Additionally, the admissibility of acts of co-conspirators and the reaction of the trier of fact to group danger highly encourage prosecutors to abuse conspiracy law to their advantage (Marcus 941). Prosecutors admit that the evidentiary benefits and advantages relating to plea bargaining most often motivate them to bring a conspiracy act even when the object offense has been consummated or sufficiently meets the elements of attempt (Marcus942). Thus, it is not surprising that experienced conspiracy lawyers overwhelmingly believe that whenever prosecutors bring two or more defendants to trial on a substantive felony, conspiracy charges will follow (Marcus 939).
 

Closing Remarks

Changed:
<
<
More than any other area of law, the criminal justice system needs to be scrutinized, given the harsh penalties that the system can impose. Judges and lawyers need to be cautious of criminal doctrines like conspiracy law which stride away from the fundamental principles of criminal law and give rise to the potential for abuse.
>
>
When looking at the reality of conspiracy law, it is clear that prosecutors use conspiracy to place defendants at a severe disadvantage – not to mention its use as a tool to suppress public outrage against government policies (Dennis; Yates; Spock; Dellinger). Thus, the question becomes whether impunity from conspiracy crimes is socially desirable, to which the only answer is certainly.
 
Changed:
<
<
The weakness of the conclusion shows where improvement can best occur, by sharpening the legal discussion. Probably all this mens rea and actus reus bullshit can be dispensed with. Conspiracy is a prosecutor's tool becuse it changes the rules of evidence in crucial ways that you do not discuss. The law of attempt is in no way particular: intention and an effort to cause harm lead to liability, whose consequences are not limited by the defendant's failure to achieve the intended result. Obviously prosecution is fully compatible with innocence: that's what juries are for. Why is it relevant that acquittals are likely to result from some prosecutions? Surely that is true with respect to any penal law and an argument against none?

Like the MPC itself, the current draft suffers from formalism's indifference to reality. If the point is to argue that conspiracy and attempt prosecutions should not occur, then you should explain why the resulting impunity would be socially desirable. If the purpose is to ignore the realities of what actually happens out of deference to "fundamental principles" with Latin tags attached, then the necessary improvement is a clear explanation why those bits of dog-Latin are more important than the way we deal with organized crime and those who fail to kill or destroy despite their best efforts.

>
>
First, conspiracy is inherently confusing, procedurally and substantively, making any attempt at reform futile (Johnson 1139-1140). Second, prosecutors can manage the prosecution of inchoate crimes under the doctrine of attempt, which does not suffer from the same flaws as conspiracy (Johnson 1161-1162). Survey results further indicate that there would not be a significant reduction in the number of convictions of inchoate crimes if prosecutors replaced conspiracy charges with attempt charges (Marcus 931). Next, advocates of conspiracy law derive their policies and justifications underlying conspiracy from abstract concepts void of reality (See Syre 405; Marcus 934). Similarly, situations where prosecutors have to use conspiracy to prove large-scale criminal endeavors are rare (Marcus 967). Finally, the ability to punish group actions that would otherwise not be illegal is too powerful of a tool for prosecutors to wield at their discretion. As such, the conspiracy doctrine will continue to be the source of injustice. Any social benefits that arise from the conspiracy doctrine do not justify the injustice that more often follows.
 

Works Cited

Added:
>
>
Conspiracy and the First Amendment. The Yale Law Journal, vol. 79, no. 5, 1970

Developments in the Law: Criminal Conspiracy. Harvard Law Review, vol. 72, no. 5, 1959

 
Changed:
<
<
Snyman, CR. “The History and Rationale of Criminal Conspiracy.” The Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa, vol. 17, no. 1, 1984, pp. 65–77
>
>
Syre, Criminal Conspiracy. Harvard Law Review, vol. 35, no. 4, 1922
 
Deleted:
<
<
Why is one article, from outside the US, a sufficient bibliography? The discussion here is entirely basic, so why no US sources at all, and no actual dialogue with the cases? You have embedded Lexis search URLs that are not freely accessible, but which can be replaced from public sources.
 
You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable.

BrayanASecondEssay 2 - 28 May 2022 - Main.EbenMoglen
Line: 1 to 1
 
META TOPICPARENT name="SecondEssay"
Line: 24 to 24
 The specific objective rationale is concerned with the intersection between conspiracy and an attempt to commit a crime (CR Snyman72). Like conspiracy, attempt is an inchoate crime that seeks to punish the actor before achieving their criminal goal. Criminal attempt occurs when an individual with an intent to commit an offense carries out a substantial step, beyond preparation, toward the commission of the crime (Model Penal Code 27.09[D]). In contrast, conspiracy punishes an actor at a much earlier stage in the process of committing a crime. Whereas attempt punishes an actor after taking a substantial step towards the commission of a crime, conspiracy punishes an actor for mere conspiracy to commit a crime. The justification for earlier intervention in conspiracy is that conspiracy is "concrete and unambiguous; it does not present the infinite degrees and variations possible in the general category of attempts" (Model Penal Code 5.03 Commentary). Thus, it is less likely with conspiracy than with attempt that, equivocal behavior will be mistaken as preparation to commit a crime. This rationale has become the justification for punishing conspiracy as a crime.
Added:
>
>

 Yet, this rationale does little to address the fundamental issue of conspiracy – the unprecedented emphasis on mens rea coupled with a de-emphasis on the actus reus. With attempt, the mens rea is the intent to commit an offense, and the actus reus is the substantial step taken towards the commission of the crime. With conspiracy, the men's rea is the intent to agree and the intent to commit the target crime, and the actus reus is the formation of an agreement (Cortez). In other words, drawing parallel to attempt, the substantial step in conspiracy is the agreement itself, which is a trivial action as far as other criminal law doctrines are concerned. In reality, conspiracy law punishes intent alone. As such, conspiracy blurs the line between punishing an action taken to prepare for the commission of a crime and punishing thoughts, which are otherwise never a criminal offense.

Group-Danger Justification

Line: 36 to 40
 More than any other area of law, the criminal justice system needs to be scrutinized, given the harsh penalties that the system can impose. Judges and lawyers need to be cautious of criminal doctrines like conspiracy law which stride away from the fundamental principles of criminal law and give rise to the potential for abuse.
Added:
>
>
The weakness of the conclusion shows where improvement can best occur, by sharpening the legal discussion. Probably all this mens rea and actus reus bullshit can be dispensed with. Conspiracy is a prosecutor's tool becuse it changes the rules of evidence in crucial ways that you do not discuss. The law of attempt is in no way particular: intention and an effort to cause harm lead to liability, whose consequences are not limited by the defendant's failure to achieve the intended result. Obviously prosecution is fully compatible with innocence: that's what juries are for. Why is it relevant that acquittals are likely to result from some prosecutions? Surely that is true with respect to any penal law and an argument against none?

Like the MPC itself, the current draft suffers from formalism's indifference to reality. If the point is to argue that conspiracy and attempt prosecutions should not occur, then you should explain why the resulting impunity would be socially desirable. If the purpose is to ignore the realities of what actually happens out of deference to "fundamental principles" with Latin tags attached, then the necessary improvement is a clear explanation why those bits of dog-Latin are more important than the way we deal with organized crime and those who fail to kill or destroy despite their best efforts.

 

Works Cited

Snyman, CR. “The History and Rationale of Criminal Conspiracy.” The Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa, vol. 17, no. 1, 1984, pp. 65–77

Added:
>
>
Why is one article, from outside the US, a sufficient bibliography? The discussion here is entirely basic, so why no US sources at all, and no actual dialogue with the cases? You have embedded Lexis search URLs that are not freely accessible, but which can be replaced from public sources.

 
You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

BrayanASecondEssay 1 - 27 Apr 2022 - Main.BrayanA
Line: 1 to 1
Added:
>
>
META TOPICPARENT name="SecondEssay"

The Unprecedented Crime of Conspiracy

-- By BrayanA - 27 Apr 2022

The Crime of Conspiracy

A crime in the United States typically consists of a mens rea and an actus reus. In other words, to be convicted of a crime, a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant realized a voluntary act that is the actual and proximate cause (actus reus) of the prohibited social harm with the requisite mental state (mens rea). Abiding by this standard is fundamental to the criminal justice system that punishes criminal offenders by taking their life, liberty, or property. The criminal justice system can only justify such a severe punishment by adhering to a high standard of criminal liability, which most criminal law doctrines do. However, the crime of conspiracy is an inchoate and complicity doctrine that has no place in criminal law.

A common law conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a criminal act or to accomplish a legal act by unlawful means. Examples would be two or more individuals plotting a robbery or assassination. It is an aspect of conspiracy crimes that an actor's criminal objective – such as robbery or assassination – need not be realized to punish the individuals criminally. Thus, the crime for which the criminal justice system punishes individuals is something other than completing the offense. A person may be convicted of conspiracy before they effectuate any acts in preparation of the substantive crime. As such, the crime of conspiracy is an unprecedented and highly controversial doctrine.

Justifications and Critiques of the Crime of Conspiracy

Before discussing critiques of conspiracy law, it will be beneficial to explain the doctrines' proposed justifications. Proponents of conspiracy crimes divide justifications for conspiracy into the "specific object" and "group-danger" rationales. The specific object rationale emphasizes preventative law enforcement through the use of conspiracy as an inchoate offense. Generally, the conspiracy doctrine justifies police intervention much earlier than is permitted under attempt law. As for the group danger rationale, the proponents claim that inherent dangers exist in collective criminal actions that do not exist on the individual level. We will begin by discussing the latter rationale.

Specific Object Justification

The specific objective rationale is concerned with the intersection between conspiracy and an attempt to commit a crime (CR Snyman72). Like conspiracy, attempt is an inchoate crime that seeks to punish the actor before achieving their criminal goal. Criminal attempt occurs when an individual with an intent to commit an offense carries out a substantial step, beyond preparation, toward the commission of the crime (Model Penal Code 27.09[D]). In contrast, conspiracy punishes an actor at a much earlier stage in the process of committing a crime. Whereas attempt punishes an actor after taking a substantial step towards the commission of a crime, conspiracy punishes an actor for mere conspiracy to commit a crime. The justification for earlier intervention in conspiracy is that conspiracy is "concrete and unambiguous; it does not present the infinite degrees and variations possible in the general category of attempts" (Model Penal Code 5.03 Commentary). Thus, it is less likely with conspiracy than with attempt that, equivocal behavior will be mistaken as preparation to commit a crime. This rationale has become the justification for punishing conspiracy as a crime.

Yet, this rationale does little to address the fundamental issue of conspiracy – the unprecedented emphasis on mens rea coupled with a de-emphasis on the actus reus. With attempt, the mens rea is the intent to commit an offense, and the actus reus is the substantial step taken towards the commission of the crime. With conspiracy, the men's rea is the intent to agree and the intent to commit the target crime, and the actus reus is the formation of an agreement (Cortez). In other words, drawing parallel to attempt, the substantial step in conspiracy is the agreement itself, which is a trivial action as far as other criminal law doctrines are concerned. In reality, conspiracy law punishes intent alone. As such, conspiracy blurs the line between punishing an action taken to prepare for the commission of a crime and punishing thoughts, which are otherwise never a criminal offense.

Group-Danger Justification

The group-danger rationale follows from a presumption that those who conspire to commit a crime are less likely to abandon their intent before the commission of the crime – "the actor knows . . . that the future is no longer governed by his will alone; others may complete what he has had a hand in starting" (Model Penal Code 5.03 Commentary). Similarly, punishing conspiracy is justified in that two or more actors agreeing to commit a crime are deemed more dangerous to society than an individual who intends to commit the same crime. As noted by Justice Jackson, "the strength, opportunities, and resources of many is obviously more dangerous and more difficult to police than the efforts of a lone wrongdoer." This rationale has become the justification for why conspiracy can punish actions that otherwise alone would not be illegal.

Whether or not these claims have empirical support is irrelevant. The same fundamental problems that arise with the specific-object rationale also apply to the group-danger rationale. Furthermore, the ability to punish group actions that would otherwise not be illegal is too powerful of a tool for prosecutors to wield at their discretion Judge Learned Hand has characterized the conspiracy doctrine as the "darling of the modern prosecutor's nursery," which prosecutors have historically used to suppress public outrage against government policies (Dennis; Yates; Spock; Dellinger).

Closing Remarks

More than any other area of law, the criminal justice system needs to be scrutinized, given the harsh penalties that the system can impose. Judges and lawyers need to be cautious of criminal doctrines like conspiracy law which stride away from the fundamental principles of criminal law and give rise to the potential for abuse.

Works Cited

Snyman, CR. “The History and Rationale of Criminal Conspiracy.” The Comparative and International Law Journal of Southern Africa, vol. 17, no. 1, 1984, pp. 65–77


You are entitled to restrict access to your paper if you want to. But we all derive immense benefit from reading one another's work, and I hope you won't feel the need unless the subject matter is personal and its disclosure would be harmful or undesirable. To restrict access to your paper simply delete the "#" character on the next two lines:

Note: TWiki has strict formatting rules for preference declarations. Make sure you preserve the three spaces, asterisk, and extra space at the beginning of these lines. If you wish to give access to any other users simply add them to the comma separated ALLOWTOPICVIEW list.


Revision 4r4 - 07 Jun 2022 - 22:23:42 - BrayanA
Revision 3r3 - 07 Jun 2022 - 02:59:59 - BrayanA
Revision 2r2 - 28 May 2022 - 11:43:29 - EbenMoglen
Revision 1r1 - 27 Apr 2022 - 00:43:38 - BrayanA
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM