The Pinkerton rule is a doctrine created by the judiciary to impose liability on a conspirator for all crimes or offenses that support a conspiracy. The law stipulates that a conspirator takes responsibility for an offense or crime even if the co-conspirators committed the crime and the defendant was not directly involved.

Consult a professional attorney for criminal accusation defense against charges if you’re facing charges under the Pinkerton rule. They can advise you on the risks you face and your legal options. They can also fight to have the charges reduced or dropped.

What is the History of the Pinkerton Rule?

The Pinkerton rule is based on the United States Supremes’ court opinion in the Pinkerton v. United States, 328 U.S. 640 (1946). In the case, the Supreme Court established a theory of vicarious liability. The principle permits the conviction of a person for a crime that can be substantiated, even if the person didn’t directly get involved in committing the crime. 

The Supreme Court argued that for a conviction to be made, the defendant and the co-conspirator who committed the crime must both be conspiracy members. In addition, the substantive crime committed must have been in furtherance of the conspiracy. A skilled conspiracy lawyer in Philadelphia can fight against the evidence presented against you to defend you in court. 

How Does the Pinkerton Rule Work?

The Pinkerton rule determines when an individual can be convicted of a substantive crime they didn’t directly commit. It upholds that all conspiracy members are liable for their co-conspirators’ substantive crimes intended to further the conspiracy.

Definition of Substantive Crime

A substantive crime is any criminal activity that furthers a conspiracy. It may also be unrelated to the scheme. A substantive offense falls under substantive criminal law that defines what constitutes certain crimes and the penalties the offender can get upon conviction.

That’s why you can get charged for a crime unrelated to a conspiracy that you belong to because you contravene laws that govern people. Navigating substantive criminal law is complex, and it would be in your best interest to work with a Philadelphia conspiracy lawyer to fight the charges.

What Must the Prosecution Prove in a Pinkerton Rule Case?

For the jury to find you guilty of a crime based on the Pinkerton Rule of liability, the prosecution must prove the following elements:

  • That you were a member of the conspiracy 
  • That after you joined the conspiracy or while you still retained membership, a member or members of the scheme committed the substantive crime for which you face charges 
  • That the offense was designed to proliferate the conspiracy 
  • That the substantive offense was within a foreseeable scope of the conspiracy to which you and the co-conspirator belong and could have seen it as a natural or necessary consequence of an unlawful agreement

Your criminal defense lawyer in Philadelphia can help you create a strong defense against this evidence to prevent you from getting a conviction. 

What Are the Penalties for Conspiracy Under the Pinkerton Rule?

The penalties for substantive crimes based on the Pinkerton rule vary depending on the severity of the crime you and members of your conspiracy agreed to commit. They also depend on the jurisdiction of the trial. A conspiracy is generally an illegal act that carries criminal penalties. Your punishment can be calculated based on the scheme by itself and the completed crime. 

In Pennsylvania, conspiracy offenses can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor. That depends on the severity of the intended or committed crime. When the crime is a misdemeanor, the penalties are:

  • Up to five years in prison 
  • A fine of up to $10,000

When the conspiracy crime is a felony, it is classified as a third-degree felony and is punishable by:

  • Up to seven years in prison 
  • A fine of up to $15,0000

If the underlying crime is a first or second-degree felony, the court modifies the penalties accordingly. A conviction also has several other adverse consequences, including job loss, a ruined reputation, and difficulty finding housing. An experienced conspiracy attorney in Philadelphia can aggressively fight the charges to protect your future. 

What Are the Possible Defenses for a Pinkerton Rule Case?

An experienced conspiracy attorney understands how the legal system. They have the skills to navigate complex conspiracy issues and can help you create a strong defense strategy to fight the charges. Some possible defenses in your Pinkerton case include the following:


Your lawyer can use legal impossibility as a defense to conspiracy. They can assert that even if the co-conspirators achieved the goal of conspiracy, no crime would have occurred. For example, planning to do something that’s not illegal doesn’t make the actors co-conspirators.

However, you may not be able to use factual impossibility as a defense. For example, being unable to carry out a crime as planned for various reasons is not a defense.


Your lawyer can raise abandonment as a defense if you withdrew from the conspiracy and communicated the withdrawal to the other members. However, your exit from the conspiracy must have happened before the crime occurred.

A Skilled Conspiracy Defense Lawyer Advocating on Your Behalf

Being accused of conspiracy under the Pinkerton rule can be complex and frightening. A conviction can result in an extended jail or prison sentence and expensive fines. Working with an experienced criminal defense attorney enhances the chances that you will successfully fight the charges. They can assess the case and advise you on the risks and options.

Our firm hosts a skilled and aggressive conspiracy attorney in Philadelphia who can put their best foot forward to defend you against the charges. We can successfully navigate the complex legal landscape and prepare to protect your rights, freedom, and future in court, whether you’re facing criminal or federal conspiracy charges. Get in touch with us today for skilled legal advice.