In the eyes of South Carolina law, an overt act is an action or behavior linked to a crime. The act can be seemingly innocent but part of the preparation or active furtherance of criminality. Prosecutors can present the act in court as evidence of a defendant’s criminal participation.
Qualifications of overt acts in furtherance of a crime
Overt acts are elements of a criminal conspiracy. To use overt acts as evidence, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt these five elements:
- At least two individuals need a connection to the alleged conspiracy.
- There must be at least two parties in agreement concerning elements of the crime.
- The agreement has to establish a commitment to an illegal objective.
- All suspected parties of the criminal intent need to know about the conspiracy.
- At least one participant needs to make an overt act to further the conspiracy.
Have you been charged with conspiracy?
Simply having a conversation with close friends about an illegal act can put someone at risk of a conspiracy charge. If one of the individuals in that discussion engages in criminality, everyone in the original discussion is as guilty as the perpetrator. Only unequivocally removing yourself from the conspiracy before overt acts are committed will provide a chance of avoiding involvement.
It’s important to note that prosecutors are not obligated to prove that a suspect committed a crime to prosecute a conspiracy charge. A conviction can result in the same punishment as the person who actually committed the crime.
Just having a conversation or making an innocent mistake shouldn’t put you on the chopping block. It will be important, should you ever find yourself scrutinized in such matters, to consult an experienced criminal law attorney.