People v. Sconce

228 Cal. App. 3d 693, 279 Cal. Rptr. 59 (1991)



Once an overt act has been committed in furtherance of the conspiracy the crime of conspiracy has been completed and no subsequent action by the conspirator can change that.


Defendant allegedly asked individuals to kill another person, but defendant called it off. The stated filed an information that alleged conspiracy to commit murder pursuant to Cal. Penal Code §§ 182187(a). The court reversed the decision of the trial court and held that defendant's withdrawal from the conspiracy was not a valid defense to the completed crime of conspiracy. Conspiracy was complete upon the commission of an overt act. 


Can the withdrawal of the defendant from the conspiracy be a valid defense from criminal liability?




Even if it be assumed Sconce effectively withdrew from the conspiracy or, as Sconce argues, that the People conceded withdrawal before the trial court, withdrawal merely precludes liability for subsequent acts committed by the members of the conspiracy. The withdrawal does not relate back to the criminal formation of the unlawful combination. In sum, conspiracy is complete upon the commission of an overt act. The rule remains that withdrawal avoids liability only for the target offense, or for any subsequent act committed by a coconspirator in pursuance of the common plan. "[I]n respect of the conspiracy itself, the individual's change of mind is ineffective; he cannot undo that which he has already done. Because we conclude Sconce's withdrawal from the conspiracy is not a valid defense to the completed crime of conspiracy, we need not determine whether the evidence showed that Sconce, in fact, withdrew from the conspiracy and communicated that withdrawal to each coconspirator. Similarly, Sconce's assertion the People conceded at the trial court level that he had withdrawn is now of no moment.

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