Facing an indictment?
It is rare indeed to find a drug indictment without some drug conspiracy count. It is a favorite of federal prosecutors, and for good reason. It’s a procedural gift, allowing the government to charge many people for the same crime, even if the relationship between the defendants is tenuous. On more than one occasion we have sat with a client during a mass detention hearing, and been told that he doesn’t recognize the face or names of any of the other defendant’s sitting at counsel table!
18 U.S.C.§371 makes it a crime for “two or more persons to conspire. to commit any offense against the United States.” Possession or Delivery of a controlled substance is one such offense. No actual offense need be proven, but the government must prove that one of the co-defendant’s committed at least one overt act named in the conspiracy. Usually the government alleges numerous overt acts in the indictment, but they only need prove one to obtain a conviction.
Pinkerton v. U.S.
The government often relies on the Pinkerton v. U.S. rule when proving a drug conspiracy. This case states that a conspirator is liable for all acts committed by co-conspirators during the course of and in furtherance of the conspiracy. One defendant committing one overt act is sufficient to convict all the defendants, and the overt act needn’t be a crime in and of itself. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be necessary to complete the offense the parties allegedly conspired to commit. However, when the overt act is a crime, even if not planned by the co-conspirators, all can be held liable.
You can see the problem. When everybody is responsible for the actions of one, the potential for an innocent to get wrapped up in a drug conspiracy is great. Perhaps as bad, co-conspirators on the fringes of the scheme – a drug courier, for example – can find their time under the sentencing guidelines balloon as a result of the actions of someone they have never met.
Your attorney must be prepared for the spider web of technicalities and jurisprudence that has expanded the advantages of government in a charged drug conspiracy. A federal drug conspiracy trial is a surreal experience and is no place for a novice. If you’ve been charged with federal conspiracy give the experienced Board Certified lawyers at Chernoff Law a call. We don’t charge for consultation.