Better Call Glew: The Case of the Wanna-be Conspirator

Hi Mr. Glew,

My friends were planning on running an identity theft scam and at first I was thinking about going along with their plan and I agreed to help but then I got scared and backed out right away. A couple weeks later they went through with the plan and were arrested. Can I be charged with conspiracy?

Under California Penal Code section 182, a criminal conspiracy occurs when one agrees with one or more other people to commit a crime, and one of them commits an overt act in furtherance of that agreement. To provide you with an example similar to the facts you have given me, conspiracy to commit identity theft would occur when there is an agreement to commit the criminal act, and there is an act in furtherance of that unlawful end, such as illegally obtaining Social Security numbers.

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Based on what you have told me, it sounds as though you initially agreed to commit the criminal act, but withdrew from the conspiracy before the criminal act was committed. However, you are not out of the woods yet as to be absolved of any criminal liability, you must also have withdrawn from the conspiracy before an act in furtherance was committed. From what you have related to me, it is unclear if you withdrew before an act in furtherance occurred; if you withdrew before an act in furtherance occurred, you are clear of any criminal wrongdoing, and if you did not, you are on the hook for conspiracy to commit identity theft, but not identity theft itself.

It sounds like you need to start looking for some new friends, and possibly an attorney!

Send all questions to And remember, Better Call Glew!

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