Punishment and Sentencing


Punishment and sentencing in a conspiracy conviction depends on the evidence set forth in the case.  Punishment will be given in conformity with the applicable statutes[i].

While imposing a sentence, a court can use its discretion reasonably to consider various factors.  An appropriate sentence considers a defendant’s age, social and cultural background, past criminal record if any, education, and experience.  The defendant’s manner and attitude are also taken into consideration.  The motive to commit the offense and the nature of the offense are additional factors considered when imposing a sentence[ii].

The maximum penalty for conspiracy is usually limited to the maximum punishment fixed for the crime that the conspirators conspired to commit.  A court can grant a sentence in a crime of conspiracy to the extent of the maximum punishment fixed for the crime.  Some state laws do not require a strict ratio between crime and sentence.  However, the sentence must not be extremely inconsistent with the severity of the crime[iii].

An enhanced sentence can be given considering the nature and circumstances of the offense committed.  A conspiracy to kill or injure a person is a crime of violence and the conspirator to that crime would be sentenced based on the rules of sentencing related to a crime based on the use of physical force.  The gravity of the offense will be considered and the conspirators are subject to enhanced punishment.  Likewise, if the crime was not due to a sudden provocation but planned, the crime is more severe and the sentence could be more severe[iv].

Under some state laws, the trial court’s sentence can be reversed only on appeal:

  • if it violates constitutional requirements;
  • if a judge was influenced by ill-will, prejudice, or impermissible considerations; or
  • if the sentence exceeded the limit prescribed by a statute[v].

Generally, criminal procedures permit multiple sentencing.  Hence it does not violate the Constitution[vi].  For example, a federal statute provides that, whoever is being prosecuted for any crime of violence or drug trafficking, if he/she uses or carries a firearm in relation to that crime, they may be sentenced to an additional period apart from the sentence for the original crime[vii].

[i] Knight v. Hopkins, 828 F. Supp. 680 (D. Neb. 1993)

[ii] State v. Bell, 242 Neb. 138 (Neb. 1992)

[iii] Kinnel v. Farley, 1994 U.S. App. LEXIS 4518 (7th Cir. Ind. Mar. 10, 1994)

[iv] United States v. De Angelo, 167 F.3d 1167 (7th Cir. Wis. 1999)

[v] Medley v. State, 386 Md. 3 (Md. 2005

[vi] United States v. Staggs, 1998 U.S. App. LEXIS 16228 (9th Cir. Haw. July 10, 1998)

[vii] 18 U.S.C.S. § 924(c)(1)