A conspiracy charge is an accusation that someone has been involved in a conspiracy, a plot in which two or more people agree to work together to accomplish a goal which is illegal, or to use illegal actions to further a legal goal. Being charged with conspiracy does not mean that someone is guilty; it means that person will go to trial so that evidence can be presented for the purpose of determining whether or not the charge is true. If the accused is guilty, the court will also sentence the conspirator.
Conspiracies can involve just two people, but more commonly there are many co-conspirators. Within the conspiracy, there may be additional smaller agreements between individuals that are intended to further one aspect or another of the plot. When people conspire, they gather together to discuss plans for accomplishing something by means which are not legal. In addition, many regions demand the commission of an "overt act" in order to convict people of conspiracy. Just planning, in other words, is not enough; someone must also take an action which is intended to be part of the conspiracy.
Conspiracy charges can be criminal or civil in nature, and sometimes both. In the case of a criminal conspiracy charge, the charge is filed by the government against people who are believed to have broken the law. These individuals will be tried in court, with evidence being presented by the government, as well as by their own side, in order to provide information which will be used to determine whether or not the charge is true. Sentences can include fines and jail time.
Civil liability for a conspiracy is also possible. People who experience damages as a result of a conspiracy, as for example when people conspire to defraud someone, can file a suit in court. If this conspiracy charge is proved, the guilty party will need to pay damages. People can also have civil and criminal liability, as for example when people are jailed for conspiracy to commit murder and ordered to pay damages to the victim's family.
When a conspiracy charge is filed, it is common for the media to report on the matter, especially if the accused is someone with a high public profile. The practice of reporting on charges and accusations has been criticized in some regions of the world on the grounds that it can harm someone's reputation. People may remember that someone was brought up on a conspiracy charge, for example, and wrongly believe that the person was guilty.