Last week, four students were arrested after police discovered a “detailed” plan to “shoot and kill as many people as possible” at Summerville High School in Tuolumne, California. Other students at the school heard the suspects discussing the shooting last week, so they told school staff, who then contacted the sheriff’s office. According to the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s office, the plan was so detailed that it included the names of the would-be victims. The four suspects were in the process of securing weapons. The suspects have not been identified since they are minors. Those four students had a court hearing Oct. 13th to determine whether they will be released from custody. They will be getting mental health evaluations.
Criminal Conspiracy (CA Penal Code 182)
Criminal conspiracy exists when two or more people agree to commit almost any unlawful act and then take some action toward its completion. The action taken does not need to be a crime in itself, but must indicate that those involved in the conspiracy knew of the plan and intended to break the law.
CA Penal Code 182 defines criminal conspiracy as taking place when:
- You agree with one or more other people to commit a crime at some time in the future, and
- One of them commits an overt act in furtherance of that agreement.
In this instance, prosecutors would have a good case for conspiracy because the four students allegedly plotted to plan a school shooting and had already commenced the ‘overt act’ of securing guns.
Conspiracy to Commit Murder (CA Penal Code 189)
The type of conspiracy you are convicted of will determine your punishment. Some conspiracies are wobblers – they can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or a felony. A conspiracy to commit murder has all the same elements as conspiracy, expect one possesses the specific intent to kill another person unlawfully and commits an act in furtherance of that act. If convicted, you will face punishment that is equivalent to first-degree murder. It is punishable by death or 25 years to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.
Withdrawal from the Conspiracy
One may withdraw from his or her role in a conspiracy before someone in the group takes an overt act to further the crime in order to be absolved of criminal liability. If you wait until after someone commits an overt act to affirm your withdrawal, you will still be charged with the conspiracy but will not be held liable for any crimes that are committed after you communicated your withdrawal. Continue reading