Criminal Conspiracy: Texas Penal Code §15.02

Texas Criminal Law

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The Texas Criminal Conspiracy law gives police the right to arrest you if they believe you entered into some kind of agreement with another person to commit a felony offense.

In addition to entering into the agreement, the state’s attorneys also have to prove that you made an “overt act” in furtherance of the agreement.

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In order to charge someone with a violation of the Criminal Conspiracy law, the state must couple it with some other offense. For instance, when the state charges someone with “Conspiracy to Commit Murder,” the offense is classified as a violation of Penal Code Section 15.02, Criminal Conspiracy. Whenever you see “conpiracy to commit” in the offense name, you will know that it’s a Criminal Conspiracy offense.

The charge of conspiracy encompasses all types of underlying crimes. Both Texas and Federal prosecutors use criminal conspiracy charges, and they each tend to use them in similar ways. What makes Criminal Conspiracy charges appealing to prosecutors is that they don’t have to prove that you were the main perpetrator of the underlying crime. Prosecutors can charge you with Criminal Conspiracy if they believe you were in any way associated with criminal conduct.

The Texas legislature codified this criminal offense in Texas Penal Code Section 15.02. The law was updated in 2023 to clarify that it does not apply to a Terrorism charge.

The Penal Code classifies the Texas Criminal Conspiracy law under Title 4 “Inchoate Offenses,” Chapter 15 “Preparatory Offenses.” Learn more about the Texas offense of Criminal Conspiracy below.

What is the current Texas law about Criminal Conspiracy?

Texas law currently defines the offense of Criminal Conspiracy in Penal Code Section §15.02 as follows:[1]

(a) A person commits criminal conspiracy if, with intent that a felony be committed:

(1) he agrees with one or more persons that they or one or more of them engage in conduct that would constitute the offense; and

(2) he or one or more of them performs an overt act in pursuance of the agreement.

What is a Criminal Conspiracy in Texas?

A criminal conspiracy is typically described as an agreement among two or more individuals aimed at committing a felony. It is usually necessary for at least one member of the conspiracy to perform a concrete action that advances the intended felony.

Importantly, the completion of the felony itself is not a requirement for a conspiracy charge; rather, any action or preparatory step toward the felony suffices. The specific felony underlying a conspiracy charge can vary widely, including offenses such as murder, drug trafficking, or wire fraud.

How can I be charged with a Criminal Conspiracy offense in Texas?

You can be charged with Criminal Conspiracy in Texas if the state’s attorneys believe that each of the elements of 15.02(a) as described in the section above have been met.

The state’s lawyers do not have to prove that a written agreement was made or what the terms agreement were. The prosecuting attorneys may prove that there was an agreement constituting a conspiracy simply by inferences that can be drawn based on the acts of the parties.[2]

The Texas Criminal Conspiracy law allows for one person to be charged and convicted even if the other party to the agreement was acquitted (found “Not Guilty”) and even if the offense was never actually committed. In fact, subsection (c) of the Texas Criminal Conspiracy statute lists five different fact patterns that are specifically excluded from use as a defense to a Criminal Conspiracy charge:[3]

(c) It is no defense to prosecution for criminal conspiracy that:

(1) one or more of the coconspirators is not criminally responsible for the object offense;

(2) one or more of the coconspirators has been acquitted, so long as two or more coconspirators have not been acquitted;

(3) one or more of the coconspirators has not been prosecuted or convicted, has been convicted of a different offense, or is immune from prosecution;

(4) the actor belongs to a class of persons that by definition of the object offense is legally incapable of committing the object offense in an individual capacity; or

(5) the object offense was actually committed.

Conspiracy charges are quite different from other types of crimes. For instance, if prosecutors want to prosecute you for criminal conspiracy related to drugs, they don’t have to prove that you were ever in possession of an illegal drug.

For example, a drug conspiracy charge might go something like this:

Someone calls you up asks you to help deliver some drugs. You may not know it, but that person is a drug dealer. If that person is under investigation and the government gets a copy of their phone records, they could charge you with drug conspiracy. They would argue that because you were talking on the phone to the drug dealer about assisting with the delivery of the drugs, you are guilty of a drug conspiracy.

There are actually many different ways that you could be charged with a conspiracy offenses. The government lawyers only need to prove an agreement, and they can do it with entirely circumstantial evidence!

What is the statute of limitation for Criminal Conspiracy in Texas?

The limitation period for Criminal Conspiracy in Texas is the same as that of the most serious offense that is the object of the conspiracy.[4]

What is the penalty for a Texas Criminal Conspiracy offense?

Under most circumstances, a conviction for Criminal Conspiracy in Texas is punished as one category lower than the most serious felony that is the object of the conspiracy.[5] If the most serious felony is a state jail felony, then Criminal Conspiracy would be punished as a Class A misdemeanor,[6] with a maximum possible fine under Texas state law of up to $4,000 and jail time of up to one year.

The amendments made in 2023

In 2023, the legislature passed a law that specifying that this classification reduction scheme does not apply to an offense under the Texas Terrorism statute.[7] Now, convictions for conspiracy to commit the Terrorism law carry a punishment greater than the punishment for the offense conspired.[8]

Can you get probation for Criminal Conspiracy in Texas?

The Texas Code of Criminal Procedure allows both judges and juries to grant probation for Criminal Conspiracy, and judges are also allowed to accept deferred adjudication plea deals.[9]

Note, however, that no matter the offense, neither judges nor juries may recommend community supervision for any suspended sentence of over 10 years.[10] Also, judges may not grant community supervision after a conviction if (1) the defendant used or exhibited a deadly weapon during the commission of the felony or immediate flight thereafter and (2) the defendant used or exhibited the deadly weapon himself or was a party to the offense and knew that a deadly weapon would be used or exhibited.[11]

Do I have to register as a sex offender in Texas if guilty of Criminal Conspiracy?

Any conviction or adjudication, including deferred adjudication, for Conspiracy to commit any Texas offense that would require registration if the offense had been completed, requires registration as a sex offender, except for Conspiracy to Commit Indecent Exposure and Conspiracy to Commit Online Solicitation of a Minor.[12]

What level of crime is Criminal Conspiracy in Texas?

The punishment for Conspiracy offenses ranges from a Class A misdemeanor to a second degree felony because the conspiracy punishment is one degree lower than the underlying offense.

Learn more about the penalty range for this offense in the section above.

^1. Texas Penal Code §15.02. This law is current as of 2024.^2. Texas Penal Code §15.02(b)^3. Texas Penal Code §15.02(c)^4. Code of Criminal Procedure 12.03(b)^5. Texas Penal Code §15.02(d)^6. Texas Penal Code §15.02(d)^7. SB 1518, 88th Texas Legislature (RS), Section 5^8. Texas Penal Code §15.02(d), cross referencing Texas Penal Code §76.02(b):

(b) An offense under this section is one category higher than the most serious offense listed in Subsection (a) that was committed or conspired to be committed, except that:

(1) if the most serious offense is a Class A misdemeanor, the offense under this section is a Class A misdemeanor with a minimum term of confinement of 180 days; and

(2) if the most serious offense is a felony of the first degree, the offense under this section is a felony of the first degree with a minimum term of confinement of 15 years.

^9. See Chapter 42, Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, Art. 42A.054, Art. 42A.056, Art. 42A.102 .^10. Art. 42A.053(c), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure^11. Art. 42A.054(b), Texas Code of Criminal Procedure^12 Code of Criminal Procedure, Article 62.001(5)(G)

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