The Law on Conspiracy and its Punishments in Montana
Legal dictionaries define a conspiracy as people working together to either use illegal means for legal ends or use legal means to accomplish illegal results. The defining trait of a conspiracy is generally that a series of actions is undertaken with a plan to accomplish a certain result, usually a criminal activity. Otherwise, it is merely a series of independent illegal actions.
Under the Montana law, a conspiracy is contained in Part 1 of Chapter 4 of Title 45 of the Montana Code Annotated. This Chapter contains the inchoate offenses. Inchoate offenses are acts taken towards the commission of a crime or acts that constitute indirect participation in a crime. Although these acts may not in themselves be illegal, they aid and abet the commission of criminal activity. The legislation is provided for inchoate offenses as the government wishes to deter persons from taking steps to commit crimes.
Conspiracy under the Montana Laws
Generally and under the Montana law, solicitation, attempt, and conspiracy are the three types of inchoate offenses. Conspiracy is stipulated to be committed when a person intends to commit an offense and, for the purpose of committing such offense, agrees with another person to its commission. A single person cannot conspire to commit a crime. A defendant can be charged with conspiracy to commit a crime as well as the actual crime itself. In the eyes of the law, these are two separate occurrences and offenses under the criminal law.
Elements of Conspiracy under the Montana Laws
From the definition above, we understand that there are certain elements that help determine whether an act is a conspiracy. They are as under:
- Agreement – An agreement between conspirators may be written or oral. In fact, in its determination, the court also considers whether an agreement was implied. All that is required to be seen is whether there was a mutual understanding between the parties about the crime to be committed.
- Intent – For a charge of conspiracy, it must be shown that co-conspirators intended to band together to accomplish the outcome desired. A person who merely knows about a plan of action need not be a co-conspirator if they do not intend to participate in the criminal activity. Further, someone who is oblivious of the fact that they are a party to a crime may not be charged with conspiracy. However, an individual need not know all the details of the crime to be shown to be a conspirator. All that is required is an intent to commit a crime on their part. The court may also examine the mental states of the parties.
- Overt act – This requirement stipulates that three people merely talking about a crime without taking any concrete step in its furtherance does not signify conspiracy. In this example, the intent requirement would likely not be satisfied either. The overt act must be in furtherance of the crime and therefore need not even be illegal.
Non-admissible defenses against conspiracy charges
Under the Montana law, the following are specifically stated to be not admissible to defend against conspiracy. That the person with whom the accused has conspired:
- Has not been prosecuted or convicted;
- Has been convicted but of a different offense;
- Is not of a mind to be amenable to justice;
- Has been acquitted; or
- Lacked the capability to commit the offense.
A person convicted of conspiracy is charged with a sentence that does not exceed the maximum sentence for the crime that is conspired to be committed.