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478 Prosecutions
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39 Convictions
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412 Convictions
in Fiscal Year 2024


    18 USC Sec. 371                                             01/05/2009




    Sec. 371. Conspiracy to commit offense or to defraud United States


      If two or more persons conspire either to commit any offense
    against the United States, or to defraud the United States, or any
    agency thereof in any manner or for any purpose, and one or more of
    such persons do any act to effect the object of the conspiracy,
    each shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than
    five years, or both.
      If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object
    of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such
    conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for
    such misdemeanor.


    (June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 701; Pub. L. 103-322, title
    XXXIII, Sec. 330016(1)(L), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)


      Based on title 18, U.S.C., 1940 ed., Secs. 88, 294 (Mar. 4, 1909,
    ch. 321, Sec. 37, 35 Stat. 1096; Mar. 4, 1909, ch. 321, Sec. 178a,
    as added Sept. 27, 1944, ch. 425, 58 Stat. 752).
      This section consolidates said sections 88 and 294 of title 18,
    U.S.C., 1940 ed.
      To reflect the construction placed upon said section 88 by the
    courts the words "or any agency thereof" were inserted. (See Haas
    v. Henkel, 1909, 30 S. Ct. 249, 216 U. S. 462, 54 L. Ed. 569, 17
    Ann. Cas. 1112, where court said: "The statute is broad enough in
    its terms to include any conspiracy for the purpose of impairing,
    obstructing, or defeating the lawful functions of any department of
    government." Also, see United States v. Walter, 1923, 44 S. Ct. 10,
    263 U. S. 15, 68 L. Ed. 137, and definitions of department and
    agency in section 6 of this title.)
      The punishment provision is completely rewritten to increase the
    penalty from 2 years to 5 years except where the object of the
    conspiracy is a misdemeanor. If the object is a misdemeanor, the
    maximum imprisonment for a conspiracy to commit that offense, under
    the revised section, cannot exceed 1 year.
      The injustice of permitting a felony punishment on conviction for
    conspiracy to commit a misdemeanor is described by the late Hon.
    Grover M. Moscowitz, United States district judge for the eastern
    district of New York, in an address delivered March 14, 1944,
    before the section on Federal Practice of the New York Bar
    Association, reported in 3 Federal Rules Decisions, pages 380-392.
      Hon. John Paul, United States district judge for the western
    district of Virginia, in a letter addressed to Congressman Eugene
    J. Keogh dated January 27, 1944, stresses the inadequacy of the 2-
    year sentence prescribed by existing law in cases where the object
    of the conspiracy is the commission of a very serious offense.
      The punishment provision of said section 294 of title 18 was
    considered for inclusion in this revised section. It provided the
    same penalties for conspiracy to violate the provisions of certain
    counterfeiting laws, as are applicable in the case of conviction
    for the specific violations. Such a punishment would seem as
    desirable for all conspiracies as for such offenses as
    counterfeiting and transporting stolen property in interstate
      A multiplicity of unnecessary enactments inevitably leads to
    confusion and disregard of law. (See reviser's note under section
    493 of this title.)
      Since consolidation was highly desirable and because of the
    strong objections of prosecutors to the general application of the
    punishment provision of said section 294, the revised section
    represents the best compromise that could be devised between
    sharply conflicting views.
      A number of special conspiracy provisions, relating to specific
    offenses, which were contained in various sections incorporated in
    this title, were omitted because adequately covered by this
    section. A few exceptions were made, (1) where the conspiracy would
    constitute the only offense, or (2) where the punishment provided
    in this section would not be commensurate with the gravity of the
    offense. Special conspiracy provisions were retained in sections
    241, 286, 372, 757, 794, 956, 1201, 2271, 2384 and 2388 of this
    title. Special conspiracy provisions were added to sections 2153
    and 2154 of this title.
      1994 - Pub. L. 103-322 substituted "fined under this title" for
    "fined not more than $10,000".
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