Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



A single criminal charge of conspiracy, because it simultaneously involves an inchoate as well as a substantive offense, is characterized by a duality that for years has created confusion and uncertainty as to the proper prosecution and punishment for the crime. The author of this Note places responsibility for this confusion primarily on the judges whose rulings have produced a highly incoherent body of common law and secondarily on the complacent legislatures that have allowed judicial interpretation to shape conspiracy law in a haphazard manner.

The Note compares the approaches to conspiracy law taken by the United Kingdom and the United States. After discussing the historical origins of conspiracy law and analyzing its various justifications, this Note then describes recent statutory efforts to reform conspiracy law--efforts that have been slow and cumbersome. Next, this Note addresses the most controversial issues surrounding the current prosecution and punishment schemes, including accessorial liability, the merger rule, and cumulative sentencing. Finally, this Note predicts the likely direction of conspiracy law reform. The author concludes that in order for conspiracy law to survive as a useful component of the United States criminal justice system, Congress must follow the lead of its British counter-part by abrogating the inchoate common law and codifying conspiracy law in the most coherent and explicit manner possible.