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Punitive Articles of the UCMJ
Article 81—Conspiracy
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Text. “Any person subject to this chapter who conspires with any other person to commit an offense under this chapter shall, if one or more of the conspirators does an act to effect the object of the conspiracy, be punished as a court-martial may direct.”


(1) That the accused entered into an agreement with one or more persons to commit an offense under the code; and

(2) That, while the agreement continued to exist, and while the accused remained a party to the agreement, the accused or at least one of the co-conspirators performed an overt act for the purpose of bringing about the object of the conspiracy.


(1) Co-conspirators. Two or more persons are required in order to have a conspiracy. Knowledge of the identity of co-conspirators and their particular connection with the criminal purpose need not be established. The accused must be subject to the code, but the other co-conspirators need not be. A person may be guilty of conspiracy although incapable of committing the intended offense. For example, a bedridden conspirator may knowingly furnish the car to be used in a robbery. The joining of another conspirator after the conspiracy has been established does not create a new conspiracy or affect the status of the other conspirators. However, the conspirator who joined an existing conspiracy can be convicted of this offense only if, at or after the time of joining the conspiracy, an overt act in furtherance of the object of the agreement is committed.

(2) Agreement. The agreement in a conspiracy need not be in any particular form or manifested in any formal words. It is sufficient if the minds of the parties arrive at a common understanding to accomplish the object of the conspiracy, and this may be shown by the conduct of the parties. The agreement need not state the means by which the conspiracy is to be accomplished or what part each conspirator is to play.

(3) Object of the agreement. The object of the agreement must, at least in part, involve the commission of one or more offenses under the code. An agreement to commit several offenses is ordinarily but a single conspiracy. Some offenses require two or more culpable actors acting in concert. There can be no conspiracy where the agreement exists only between the persons necessary to commit such an offense. Examples include dueling, bigamy, incest, adultery, and bribery.

(4) Overt act.

(a) The overt act must be independent of the agreement to commit the offense; must take place at the time of or after the agreement; must be done by one or more of the conspirators, but not necessarily the accused; and must be done to effectuate the object of the agreement.

(b) The overt act need not be in itself criminal, but it must be a manifestation that the agreement is being executed. Although committing the intended offense may constitute the overt act, it is not essential that the object offense be committed. Any overt act is enough, no matter how preliminary or preparatory in nature, as long as it is a manifestation that the agreement is being executed.

(c) An overt act by one conspirator becomes the act of all without any new agreement specifically directed to that act and each conspirator is equally guilty even though each does not participate in, or have knowledge of, all of the details of the execution of the conspiracy.

(5) Liability for offenses. Each conspirator is liable for all offenses committed pursuant to the conspiracy by any of the co-conspirators while the conspiracy continues and the person remains a party to it.

(6) Withdrawal. A party to the conspiracy who abandons or withdraws from the agreement to commit the offense before the commission of an overt act by any conspirator is not guilty of conspiracy. An effective withdrawal or abandonment must consist of affirmative conduct which is wholly inconsistent with adherence to the unlawful agreement and which shows that the party has severed all connection with the conspiracy. A conspirator who effectively abandons or withdraws from the conspiracy after the performance of an overt act by one of the conspirators remains guilty of conspiracy and of any offenses committed pursuant to the conspiracy up to the time of the abandonment or withdrawal. However, a person who has abandoned or withdrawn from the conspiracy is not liable for offenses committed thereafter by the remaining conspirators. The withdrawal of a conspirator from the conspiracy does not affect the status of the remaining members.

(7) Factual impossibility. It is not a defense that the means adopted by the conspirators to achieve their object, if apparently adapted to that end, were actually not capable of success, or that the conspirators were not physically able to accomplish their intended object.

(8) Conspiracy as a separate offense. A conspiracy to commit an offense is a separate and distinct offense from the offense which is the object of the conspiracy, and both the conspiracy and the consummated offense which was its object may be charged, tried, and punished. The commission of the intended offense may also constitute the overt act which is an element of the conspiracy to commit that offense.

(9) Special conspiracies under Article 134. The United States Code prohibits conspiracies to commit certain specific offenses which do not require an overt act. These conspiracies should be charged under Article 134. Examples include conspiracies to impede or injure any Federal officer in the discharge of duties under 18 U.S.C. §372, conspiracies against civil rights under 18 U.S.C. § 241, and certain drug conspiracies under 21 U.S.C. § 846. See paragraph 60c(4)(c)(ii).

Lesser included offense. Article 80 - Attempts

Maximum punishment. Any person subject to the code who is found guilty of conspiracy shall be subject to the maximum punishment authorized for the offense which is the object of the conspiracy, except that in no case shall the death penalty be imposed.

Next Article > Article 82—Solicitation >

Above Information from Manual for Court Martial, 2002, Chapter 4, Paragraph 5


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