On Jan. 9, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court, in Smith v. United States, held that a person accused of having participated in a criminal conspiracy has the burden of proving withdrawal from the conspiracy outside of the statute of limitations period to avoid criminal conviction. According to Justice Antonin Scalia, an accused’s “change of heart ... c[an] not put the conspiracy genie back in the bottle.”

Normally, a defendant who joins a criminal conspiracy is held responsible for any criminal acts committed by other members of the conspiracy during the life of the conspiracy. The government, however, does not have an unlimited time to charge a person with participating in a criminal conspiracy. When an accused withdraws from a criminal conspiracy outside of the time period in which the government could bring timely charges, the accused has a complete defense.

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