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US Criminal Law/Preliminary offenses

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Preliminary offenses

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Conspiracy and incitement

A conspiracy involves an agreement to commit an unlawful act, and an act in furtherance of that unlawful act. A person found guilty of conspiracy to engage in a crime is generally less-harshly punished than one found guilty of that crime in itself. For example, robbery may be a second-degree felony where conspiracy to commit robbery would be a third-degree felony. In this way, conspiracies are like attempt crimes, which are also generally of a lesser degree.

Conspiracy to commit a crime (an agreement + an act infurtherance of unlawful act) causes the conspirator to be culpable for the completed act unless there is a clear expression of a withdrawal from the conspiracy. Thus, in a conspiracy to commit murder where, for example, a car is provided to the co-conspirator, with the knowledge that the co-conspirator is going to commit the murder is sufficient for both to be sentenced for murder.

Due process

Due process is a legal concept that when followed helps protect the people's fundamental rights in their dealings with the legal system. Due process is guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment. Both state that:

No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law.

"Due process" includes:

  1. the right to be notified of charges or proceedings
  2. the right to be tried by an impartial judge, magistrate or jury
  3. the right to defend oneself in a court of law
  4. the right to a trial under the established procedures and
  5. the right to be cleared of charges if not convicted.

Additionally, due process requires that a person cannot be charged under a law that does not exist. The Bill of Rights defines the minimum standards of due process that is required of the government.

Due process ensures that a person receives a fair trial and helps protect the innocent from being wrongly convicted.