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Conspiracy Lawyer in Toronto

Mississauga, Brampton and Newmarket Conspiracy Lawyer

Commonly Asked Questions

  1. What is conspiracy?
  2. What criminal offences can be the subject of a conspiracy?
  3. What is the sentence for conspiracy to commit murder?
  4. What is the sentence for a conspiracy other than a conspiracy to commit murder?
  5. What if no steps are actually taken in furtherance of the conspiracy?
  6. How many co-conspirators are required in order to establish a conspiracy?
  7. What about if the object of the conspiracy is not carried out?
  8. What about if someone only has knowledge of a plan of criminal conduct?
  9. What are my Charter rights?
  10. Can the Charter help my defence?
  11. Can I get assistance from Legal Aid Ontario for my case?

A conspiracy charge is a very serious matter. The sentence for conspiracy will depend upon the seriousness of the underlying offence which is the object of the conspiracy. If, for example, the conspiracy is to commit a summary conviction offence, the maximum penalty will be 2 years less one day in jail. If the conspiracy is to commit murder, the sentence will be a maximum term of imprisonment for life.

A conspiracy can be committed with respect to almost any offence set out in the Criminal Code of Canada or other federal statute such as the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.

The law that applies to the proof of a conspiracy is very complex and the defence of a conspiracy charge therefore requires the knowledge and expertise of an experienced criminal defence lawyer.

I have more than 35 years of experience defending against the most serious charges, including conspiracy. I believe strongly that everyone deserves a defence, and I will work hard to build the strongest possible defence on your behalf.

If your case requires a jury trial, I have the necessary experience, advocacy skills and confidence to convincingly argue your case to the jury.

Call Defence Lawyer Anthony De Marco for a Free Consultation

Contact my Toronto, Ontario, office today to discuss your conspiracy case. I offer a free 30-minute consultation. For your convenience, I offer reasonable payment plans. I also accept Legal Aid in most cases. You can reach me by phone at (416) 651-2299 or toll-free at 1-888-399-3164 or by e-mail.

What is the Offence of Conspiracy?

Section 465 of the Criminal Code of Canada provides, in part, as follows:

465(1) Except where otherwise expressly provided by law, the following provisions apply in respect of conspiracy:

  • (a) every one who conspires with any one to commit murder or to cause another person to be murdered, whether in Canada or not, is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to a maximum term of imprisonment for life;
  • (b) every one who conspires with any one to prosecute a person for an alleged offence, knowing that they did not commit that offence, is guilty of
  • (i) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years or an offence punishable on summary conviction, if the alleged offence is one for which, on conviction, that person would be liable to be sentenced to imprisonment for life or for a term of not more than 14 years, or
  • (ii) an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years or an offence punishable on summary conviction, if the alleged offence is one for which, on conviction, that person would be liable to imprisonment for less than 14 years;
  • (c) every one who conspires with any one to commit an indictable offence not provided for in paragraph (a) or (b) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to the same punishment as that to which an accused who is guilty of that offence would, on conviction, be liable; and
  • (d) every one who conspires with any one to commit an offence punishable on summary conviction is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.

The essential elements of a conspiracy are as follows:

  1. there must be an act of agreement between 2 or more persons;
  2. there must be an actual intention to agree, in other words, more than simply a common intention on the part of the co-conspirators is required;
  3. there must be a criminal purpose that is common between the co-conspirators to the conspiracy, in other words, a criminal object or crime to be committed;
  4. there must be an intention to effect the criminal purpose.

The offence of conspiracy is complete at the point where the 4 aforementioned elements exist, whether or not any actual steps are taken to pursue the conspiracy.

The common law has established the following principles applicable in the prosecution of a conspiracy:

  1. it is irrelevant that the object of the conspiracy is not actually carried out;
  2. any overt act or admission of the parties to the conspiracy are admissible in evidence as proof of the conspiracy;
  3. mere knowledge, or discussion of, or passive acquiescence in a plan to commit a criminal offence is not sufficient to prove membership in a conspiracy;
  4. a conspiracy is not established merely by proof of knowledge of a scheme to commit a criminal offence or by doing any acts in furtherance of the criminal scheme since there must be evidence of an act of agreement and evidence of an intention to agree;
  5. impossibility is not a defence to conspiracy, so long as the criminal object is the commission of an actual crime;
  6. lack of intent to agree or the lack of intent to carry out the criminal object will defeat a charge of conspiracy, for example, if one of the 2 parties has no real intention to carry out the object of the conspiracy but merely pretends to agree, there is no conspiracy;
  7. mere recklessness is not a sufficient intent to establish a conspiracy;
  8. although, in general, there is no such thing as an attempt to conspire, a conspiracy to attempt to obstruct justice is a proper charge since the offence of attempt to obstruct justice is a real criminal object.
  9. A person becomes a party to an offence if he or she aids or abets a principal in the commission of the offence and therefore party liability to a conspiracy will be made out where the accused aids or abets the co-conspirator's act of agreeing.

What is the Defence to a Charge of Conspiracy?

The most common defence to a charge of conspiracy is that the charge cannot be proven by the Crown beyond a reasonable doubt since the proof of membership in the conspiracy and all of the other necessary requirements of a conspiracy are very difficult to prove. In order to ease this difficulty, the common law has established a rule of evidence known as the "co-conspirator exception to the hearsay rule". In R. v. Carter, 1982 CanLII 35 (SCC) the Supreme Court of Canada explained that this rule of evidence allows for an exception to the "hearsay rule" so as to allow evidence of the accused's membership in a conspiracy through acts and declarations of fellow members of the conspiracy performed and made in pursuance of the object of the conspiracy. The applicability of the exception, however, depends on the preliminary fact of membership in the same conspiracy. Membership must therefore be proven before the exception is operative.

More recently, the Court of Appeal for Ontario explained the co-conspirator's exception to the hearsay rule as follows in R. v. Simpson, 2007 ONCA 793:

  • The co-conspirators’ exception to the hearsay rule allows the acts and declarations of an accused’s alleged co-conspirators, done or made in furtherance of the conspiracy, to be adduced as evidence against the accused . . . . co-conspirators’ statements will be admissible against an accused person if: (i) the trier of fact is satisfied beyond a reasonable doubt that a conspiracy existed; and (ii) if independent evidence, directly admissible against the accused person, establishes on a balance of probabilities that the accused was a member of the conspiracy.

The Court of Appeal further clarified that the application of the co-conspirator's exception of the hearsay rule to a particular case must be tested for indicia of necessity and reliability. In "rare cases" where necessity and/or reliability are lacking, the trial Judge may exclude the hearsay statements.

Pre-Trial Charter Applications

Often, the best defence to a criminal charge involves a challenge to the investigation that resulted in the arrest of the accused or the collection of evidence against the accused. The police are not allowed to breach the rights that are guaranteed to the accused by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I will investigate any possible Charter breaches by carefully reviewing the Crown disclosure documents, including the documents used by the police to obtain search warrants for the home, car or other property of the accused, and the documents used by the police to obtain production orders, such as for cell phone records and wiretap authorizations.

If I detect any violation of the Charter rights of the accused or violation of acceptable investigative procedures established by the courts, I will proceed with an application asking for the exclusion of evidence from the trial of the accused obtained illegally by the police, including the statements of the accused and other evidence seized during the investigation.

I have an established reputation for success in pre-trial applications. Winning a Charter application will result in the exclusion of evidence if the court determines that not excluding the evidence will bring the administration of justice into disrepute. The exclusion of evidence often results in a finding of not guilty if the Crown's remaining evidence is insufficient to prove that the accused committed the offence beyond a reasonable doubt.

I have the necessary experience, research skills, writing skills, and advocacy skills to prepare and effectively argue pre-trial Charter applications. The value of legal writing skills cannot be overstated since proceeding with pre-trial Charter applications will require the preparation of several documents including a Notice of Application, an Affidavit, and a Factum setting out the relevant facts and summarizing the relevant case law.

Electing to Have a Preliminary Inquiry

In cases in which a Defendant is exposed to a possible period of 14 years or more in jail, the Defendant will have the right to proceed with a preliminary inquiry in the Ontario Court of Justice and then a trial in the Superior Court of Justice before a court composed of a Judge sitting with a jury or without a jury. In the past, this level of court was referred to as "High Court".

The completion of a preliminary inquiry is not mandatory. The Defendant has the right to waive the preliminary inquiry and to proceed directly to trial in either the Ontario Court of Justice or the Superior Court of Justice. If the trial is to be completed in the Superior Court of Justice, the waiver of the preliminary inquiry will require the consent of the Crown.

At a preliminary inquiry, the Crown is required to call some evidence upon which a properly instructed jury, acting reasonably, may return a verdict of guilt. This is an easy test for the Crown to meet in the vast majority of cases. Accordingly, it is relatively rare for someone who proceeds with a preliminary inquiry to be discharged with respect to all of the charges which he or she is facing. The real value in having a preliminary inquiry is not in the hope of being entirely discharged, thereby bringing the entire criminal proceedings to an end, but in being able to better prepare the case for trial. The defence lawyer will have an opportunity to cross-examine and test the evidence of the primary Crown witnesses. An experienced and skilled defence lawyer can discover the strengths and weaknesses of the Crown witnesses and commence building an effective defence strategy. A preliminary inquiry is especially valuable for the defence in cases involving young, infirm, unreliable or unsavory Crown witnesses.

Call Defence Lawyer Anthony De Marco for a Free Consultation

Contact my Toronto, Ontario, office today to discuss your conspiracy case. I offer a free 30-minute consultation. For your convenience, I offer reasonable payment plans. I also accept Legal Aid in most cases. You can reach me by phone at (416) 651-2299 or toll-free at 1-888-399-3164 or by e-mail.

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