Conspiracy under the New Jersey Criminal Code

Under the New Jersey Criminal Code, N.J.S.A 2c:5-2 a person is guilty of conspiracy if he/she agrees with another person/persons to engage in conduct or aide another person in conduct that constitutes the commission of a crime. A conspiracy that contains multiple objectives will still only result in one conspiracy charge so long as the multiple crimes are the result of one agreement.

Conspiracy requires an “overt act” in furtherance of the stated objective. The New Jersey Supreme Court has held that the State is not required to present “direct evidence” that an overt act took place. In a mob trial involving membership in the Colombo family of La Cosa Nostra the court held that so long as other evidence was presented during trial to permit the jury to infer that an overt act did not take place direct evidence is not required. State v. Cagno, 211 N.J. 488 (N.J. 2012)

There is no need for the actual crime to be committed or for the object of the conspiracy to be achieved for someone to be found guilty.

New Jersey has adopted the unilateral approach to conspiracy, which means that the defendant in a conspiracy case could still be found guilty of conspiracy even if the co-conspirator was a police officer or someone who had no intention of carrying out the objective of the conspiracy. State v Urcinoli 321 NJ Super 519 (1999) In addition the New Jersey Supreme Court has held that statements made to a police informant conspirator are admissible under New Jersey Rules of Evidence 803(b)(5). If a person guilty of conspiracy knows that a person with whom he conspires to commit a crime has conspired with another person or persons to commit the same crime, he is guilty of conspiring with such other persons, whether or not he knows their identity.

Under the “chain analysis” the government doesn’t need to show a direct connection between all the conspirators. The liability of members of the distribution chain is based on knowledge by members of the conspiracy that there participation and ultimate success is not determined solely by their efforts, but also by the efforts of other members of the group. State v. Roldan, 314 N.J. Super. 173 (App.Div. 1998)

Thus, it is possible for someone to be charged with being a co-conspirator or member of a conspiracy and still have never seen other members of the conspiracy or exchanged correspondence. One may have never heard the name of the other members and yet by the law they may be parties to the same common criminal agreement.

There are limitations to the unilateral approach to conspiracy contained in New Jersey case law. Specifically, there must be something that one of the party’s views as an agreement. Simply telling another party of an intention to commit a crime with the other party not acting on the information or doing anything with the information will not be considered a conspiracy. There must be intentional participation with the purpose of furthering the goal of committing the crime.

Conspiracy is a complex charge that requires effective legal representation. Call the attorneys of Lubiner, Schmidt and Palumbo for a free evaluation of your charges.