TITLE 18 - CRIMES AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE
PART I - CRIMES
CHAPTER 19 - CONSPIRACY
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
(June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 701; Pub. L. 103-322, title
XXXIII, Sec. 330016(1)(L), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)
HISTORICAL AND REVISION NOTES
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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