conspiracy

conspirative, adj.conspiratorial /keuhn spir'euh tawr"ee euhl, -tohr"-/, conspiratory, adj.conspiratorially, adv.
/keuhn spir"euh see/, n., pl. conspiracies.
1. the act of conspiring.
2. an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot.
3. a combination of persons for a secret, unlawful, or evil purpose: He joined the conspiracy to overthrow the government.
4. Law. an agreement by two or more persons to commit a crime, fraud, or other wrongful act.
5. any concurrence in action; combination in bringing about a given result.
[1325-75; ME conspiracie, prob. < AF; see CONSPIRE, -ACY; r. ME conspiracioun; see CONSPIRATION]
Syn. 1. collusion, sedition. 2. CONSPIRACY, PLOT, INTRIGUE, CABAL all refer to surreptitious or covert schemes to accomplish some end, most often an evil one. A CONSPIRACY usually involves a group entering into a secret agreement to achieve some illicit or harmful objective: a vicious conspiracy to control prices. A PLOT is a carefully planned secret scheme, usually by a small number of persons, to secure sinister ends: a plot to seize control of a company.
An INTRIGUE usually involves duplicity and deceit aimed at achieving either personal advantage or criminal or treasonous objectives: the petty intrigues of civil servants. CABAL refers either to a plan by a small group of highly-placed persons to overthrow or control a government, or to the group of persons themselves: a cabal of powerful lawmakers.

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Agreement between two or more persons to commit an unlawful act or to accomplish a lawful end by unlawful means.

Some U.S. states require an overt act in addition to the agreement to constitute conspiracy. Individual conspirators need not even know of the existence or the identity of all other conspirators. In a chain conspiracy the parties act separately and successively (as in distributing narcotics). A civil conspiracy is not prosecuted as a crime but forms the grounds for a lawsuit. In antitrust law, conspiracies in restraint of trade (e.g., price fixing) are rigorously prosecuted. In the U.S. it is common to punish a conspiracy to commit an offense more harshly than the offense itself, but there has been a growing trend to follow the European example and make the punishment for conspiracy the same as or less than that for the offense itself.

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law
      in common law, an agreement between two or more persons to commit an unlawful act or to accomplish a lawful end by unlawful means. Conspiracy is perhaps the most amorphous area in Anglo-American criminal law. Its terms are vaguer and more elastic than any conception of conspiracy to be found in the continental European codes or their imitators. In most civil-law countries, the punishment of agreements to commit offenses, irrespective of whether the criminal purpose was attempted or executed, is largely confined to political offenses against the state. In some U.S. states, statutory law limits the conspiracy offense to that of furthering criminal objectives.

      Generally, there is no particular form that the agreement must take to constitute conspiracy. Although many statutes now require an overt act as proof of an agreement to commit a felony, conspiracy is still largely inferred from circumstantial evidence. Thus, individual conspirators need not even know of the existence or the identity of all the other conspirators. Two persons may be found to have conspired with each other simply by making separate agreements with a third party.

      Once a person has entered into an agreement, it is very difficult to limit the scope of his liability for the acts of others included in the conspiracy. Courts and statutes increasingly emphasize that proof of an agreement must be related to a specific crime. Often, however, conspiratorial organizations conduct a business rather than commit a single offense; for example, a “chain conspiracy” involves several transactions all directed to a common unlawful objective. The courts differ as to what extent a party at one end of the chain should be liable for the acts of the parties at the other end. Also, in a “hub conspiracy,” a single man, or “hub,” such as a “fence” for stolen goods, makes separate illegal transactions with persons who have no knowledge of the others involved.

      In support of such reasoning, it is argued, first, that conspiracies are an especial threat to society because of the greater power that lies in numbers and the pooling of talents. It is also said that the formation of a group impedes detection, because evidence of the conspiracy is limited to the conspirators themselves, whose reluctance to testify in court increases with the size of the group. Finally, it is speculated that the very act of agreement crystallizes and hardens the purposes of persons who alone might be less resolute.

      Others argue that the Anglo-American concept of conspiracy is too elastic to prevent injustice. No continental country permits conviction for conspiracy if the aim of the agreement is itself legal.

      It is common in the United States to punish a conspiracy to commit an offense more harshly than the commission of the offense itself, but there has been a growing trend, as in the state of Illinois, to follow the continental European example of making the punishment for conspiracy the same as or less than that for the offense itself. Also, instead of adding the punishment for conspiracy to that for the separate crime, Illinois requires that punishment be given for one offense or the other but not both. The harshness of the traditional rule was mitigated by the doctrine that if one of the necessary parties to a conspiracy could not be convicted, the other party could not be convicted either. In some jurisdictions this doctrine has been dropped so that a party may be guilty of conspiracy regardless of the status of his partner.

      Conspiracies that relate to political offenses and to economic warfare between businesses and between management and labour are usually regulated by statute. The concept of conspiracy itself, however, is often limited by the vagueness of its common-law background.

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Universalium. 2010.

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