Bilateral or Unilateral

People v. Foster

457 N.E.2d 405 (Ill. 1983).

Convicted of conspiracy to commit robbery.


Whether Illinois will follow a unilateral theory (one person can commit the crime) or bilateral theory (both people are required to commit the crime).


Conspiracy is a person who wants and offense to be committed and agrees with another to commit the crime.


Follow a bilateral theory.


The defendant approached an Ragsdale and asked him if he was interested in making money. He then told the Ragsdale of his plan. Later Ragsdale turned the defendant into the police.


The state argues that this writing on the statute promotes a unilateral theory. However, the court disagrees and says that the legislative intent did not lean towards a unilateral theory. Additionally, the defendant can still be charged with solicitation and any lenity should lean towards the defendant.

Thus, he cannot be guilty of conspiracy because you need two people where both individuals have the intent to agree and the intent to commit the crime. Because Ragsdale did not intend to commit the crime, he is not a co-conspirator and the defendant cannot be guilty of conspiracy.

Additional Notes

The question is to determine if you need two people to satisfy all the requirements for a conspiracy or if an individual can conspire on their own.

I am of the opinion that a bilateral approach is not as strong as a unilateral agreement.

Under the MPC, he would have been guilty because him alone had committed the acts necessary for a conviction.


Iannelli v. United States

420 U.S. 770 (1975).

Convicted of conspiracy to operate a gambling operation and for doing so.


Whether the defendant’s can receive separate sentences or is there an exception?


There is no merger of crime, which means that the defendants can be provided different sentences. Wharton is an exception:

“An agreement cannot be a conspiracy when the crime is of such nature as to make it necessary to have two persons to commit it.” However, if there are more than the required people to commit the crime, this exception does not apply.


Wharton’s rule does not apply here.


One district said that the


Why does Wharton’s rule not apply?

This is because the harm is more broad than that applied to just those parties.

Additional Notes

Why do we have this rule?

What are classic examples of Wharton’s rule? Dueling, bigamy, and adultery. For example, if two people conspire to commit adultery together, there cannot be a separate sentence for conspiracy (because the requirement for adultery requires two people). However, if a third person is in that conspiracy, then Wharton’s rule will not apply?

Gerbardi v. United States

287 U.S. 112 (1932).

Charged with conspiracy to violate the Mann Act: transporting a woman across state lines for the purpose of prostitution.


Can the woman be convicted of conspiracy considering how she is the woman being transported?


The Mann Act


Not guilty of conspiracy.


The court determined that in passing the law, you can’t convict the person being transported. Because she is the person being transported, she can’t commit the crime and can therefore not be guilty as a conspirator.

Additional Notes

The big takeaway is that a victim of a crime cannot be a conspirator to it

People v. Sconce

279 Ca. Rptr. 59 (Ct. App. 1991).

Conspiracy to comit murder


Whether the defendant actually withdrew. If he did, is that a valid defense?


True withdrawal:

  • Rejection of the conspiracy communicated to all the co-conspirators

Full defense only a defense only if no overt act has occurred.

If an overt act has occurred, the benefit is that there is a lack of future Pinkerton liability.


Guilty of conspiracy.


Sconce conspired with another to kill the victim. However, Sconce called it off. The trial court dismissed because he withdrew.


An overt act had occurred (going to the house to scope out the area) and therefore can be guilty of conspiracy. However, if the bomb had been placed an gone off, he would not be guilty of the substantive crime.

Additional Notes

The benefit of allowing a withdrawal as a defense is because you want to encourage withdraw.

Under the MPC 5.03(6) Renunciation. You can use withdraw as a total defense if the defendant “thwart[s] the success of the conspiracy”.


The content contained in this article may contain inaccuracies and is not intended to reflect the opinions, views, beliefs, or practices of any academic professor or publication. Instead, this content is a reflection on the author’s understanding of the law and legal practices.

Categories: 1L Fall, Criminal Law

Will Laursen

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