Criminal Conspiracy Law: Time to Turn Back from an Ever Expanding, Ever More Troubling Area

46 Pages Posted: 1 Mar 2011

Date Written: 1992


The offense of criminal conspiracy exists because of a deep concern with the danger created by the joint activity of serious and determined criminals. In virtually every jurisdiction in the United States, a conspirator can be held responsible for crimes committed by her co-conspirators as long as such crimes were in furtherance of the agreement and were reasonably foreseeable; the crimes themselves do not have to have been agreed upon, intended, or even discussed. The charge of criminal conspiracy has always been common, but during the past twenty years, remarkable activity in the law concerning criminal conspiracy has occurred: the Supreme Court has restructured the rules of evidence in conspiracy cases, and massive and complex "mega-trials" are now commonplace, especially in prosecuting drug crimes. This article discusses the history and current state of the law of criminal conspiracy and concludes that the modern changes fail to serve the true purpose of conspiracy law. This article also advises that conspiracy law can return to its true purpose – punishing groups of people for joining together to commit crimes – by reducing the use of mega-trials and by prosecuting the conspiracy, and not other related crimes.

Keywords: criminal, conspiracy, conspirator, evidence, punishment, and mega-trials

Suggested Citation

Marcus, Paul, Criminal Conspiracy Law: Time to Turn Back from an Ever Expanding, Ever More Troubling Area (1992). William & Mary Bill of Rights, Vol. 1, No. 1, 1992, William & Mary Law School Research Paper No. 09-77, Available at SSRN:

Paul Marcus (Contact Author)

William & Mary Law School ( email )

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P.O. Box 8795
Williamsburg, VA 23187-8795
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