Drug Conspiracy Charges
Depending on the situation, federal drug crimes like drug trafficking, drug manufacturing and drug importation are sometimes accompanied by charges of drug conspiracy, a crime that occurs when two or more people knowingly enter into an agreement to violate a federal drug law. Drug conspiracy charges are serious, and a conviction for drug conspiracy can result in a lengthy federal prison sentence, significant fines and a criminal record upon conviction.
If you have been arrested for committing or attempting to commit a federal drug crime in California involving one or more other people, you could be facing drug conspiracy charges. The laws governing federal drug conspiracies are broadly defined and the federal government has extensive resources it can devote to prosecuting such drug-related crimes.
Any time drug conspiracy charges are on the table, it is in your best interest to consult a knowledgeable federal drug crimes defense attorney who has the skills and resources necessary to protect your rights and your freedom. Call our Federal Criminal Lawyers today to speak to a skilled defense attorney about your legal options. Our firm is based in California, but we have experience representing clients in federal cases across the country.
What is a Drug Conspiracy?
Federal drug conspiracy charges can arise any time two or more people join in an agreement to commit a federal drug crime like drug manufacturing, drug trafficking or drug smuggling. The key element of a drug conspiracy charge is the underlying criminal agreement to violate a federal drug law, which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Although many drug conspiracy cases involve an express or explicit agreement, the federal government may be able to pursue criminal charges for drug conspiracy even if the alleged criminal agreement was implicit or implied. In other words, if, based on the circumstances, it is clear that the participants committed or planned to commit a crime, even if they didn’t state their intention explicitly, it may be enough for drug conspiracy charges to stand.
Furthermore, conspiracy charges can apply even if the crime was never committed; simply knowing that an agreement existed and joining the agreement exposes you to drug conspiracy charges.
Drug Conspiracy – 21 U.S. Code §§ 846 and 963
According to the Department of Justice, the federal drug conspiracy statute (21 U.S. Code § 846), which is separate from the general conspiracy statute (18 U.S. Code § 371), makes it a crime to conspire to violate or attempt to violate any substantive offense set forth in 21 U.S. Code §§ 801-904 (Control and Enforcement). Section 963 of Title 21 makes it a crime to conspire to violate or attempt to violate any substantive offense set forth in 21 U.S. Code §§ 951-971 (Import and Export).
Types of Drug Conspiracy Charges
The main statutes that deal with federal drug crimes in the United States are 21 U.S. Code § 841 (drug manufacturing and drug distribution/trafficking) and 21 U.S. Code § 952 (drug importation). Because being involved in a conspiracy means joining an agreement to violate a federal law, drug conspiracy charges generally break down into four different categories based on the applicable drug law:
• Conspiracy to manufacture a controlled substance – Participating in any part of the drug manufacturing process (i.e. growing or processing)
• Conspiracy to distribute or traffic a controlled substance – Delivering an illicit drug or controlled substance to another person
• Conspiracy to import a controlled substance – Bringing an illicit drug or controlled substance into the United States
• Conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with the intent to distribute it – Having in your possession a large enough quantity of a drug that it seems likely you intended to sell it
Federal Drug Conspiracy Penalties
Like most federal drug crimes, the penalties associated with involvement in a drug conspiracy depend on the type and quantity of the drug in question and are equal to the penalties associated with the target crime. At stated in 21 U.S. Code §§ 846 and 963, “Any person who attempts or conspires to commit any offense defined in this subchapter shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the attempt or conspiracy.”
For instance, if you are accused of conspiring to manufacture or distribute one kilogram or more of a substance containing a detectable amount of heroin, a violation of 21 U.S. Code § 846, you could face a potential punishment consisting of not less than 10 years or more than life in prison, plus a fine of $10 million (individual) or $50 million (group or organization).
Similar to other federal drug crimes, you could face enhanced criminal penalties for drug conspiracy if you have a prior felony conviction for a drug crime or if someone dies or suffers serious bodily injury as a result of using the drug involved in the alleged conspiracy. Drug conspiracy charges can also result in the seizure and forfeiture of your property and assets if the government can show that the property and assets were obtained as a result of a drug-related crime or that you used or intended to use the property or assets to commit or facilitate a drug crime.
Drug Conspiracy Prosecution
Unlike other drug crimes, for which there are several complex elements the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to get a conviction, a drug conspiracy case requires proof of only two main points:
• That there was an agreement between two or more people to violate a federal drug law, and
• That the alleged conspirators knew of the agreement and joined it.
It is important to note that alleged conspirators do not have to know all the details of the agreement, nor do they have to know all of the conspirators for drug conspiracy charges to be filed. They do, however, have to know and agree to the basic purpose of the agreement, i.e. to violate a federal drug law.
Also important is the fact that while the general federal conspiracy statute (18 U.S. Code § 371) requires proof of an overt act committed by one conspirator in furtherance of the conspiracy, the federal drug conspiracy statute (21 U.S. Code § 846) does not. That means you can face charges for drug conspiracy simply by entering into an agreement to commit a drug-related crime, whether you take action to carry out the target crime or not.
Possible Defenses to Conspiracy Charges
Drug conspiracy charges are serious, but with the right legal strategy and an experienced defense attorney on your side, it is possible to have the charges reduced or possibly even dismissed altogether. Even though there are only two main elements to a drug conspiracy charge, these elements must still be proven beyond a reasonable doubt by the prosecution.
If your attorney can successfully challenge the prosecution’s evidence against you and raise reasonable doubts in the minds of the jurors that you are guilty of the crime, you may be able to secure an acquittal at trial. The following are some possible defenses your attorney may use in your federal drug conspiracy case:
• A conspiracy did not exist (there was no agreement)
• You did not intend to join the agreement
• You withdrew from the conspiracy
• You were involved in a different conspiracy
• You were the victim of an illegal search and seizure
• You were entrapped by federal agents
• You prevented the success of the conspiracy (renunciation)
• You agreed to commit an act, but the act is not a crime
Types of Drug Cases
Why You Need a Criminal Defense Attorney
Drug conspiracy is a powerful tool used by the federal government to punish co-conspirators accused of agreeing to commit a drug crime, even in cases where the alleged target crime remains unfinished. In fact, in many drug conspiracy cases, the other party in the deal or transaction is a cooperating witness or a law enforcement officer, in which case, it was likely factually impossible that the drug crime would have occurred in the first place.
Still, the federal drug conspiracy statute gives the government the authority to file charges against the would-be offender, as well as any other members of the conspiracy, known as “co-conspirators,” even if they were not major participants in the conspiracy.
Standing up against the federal government and defending yourself against drug conspiracy charges is no easy task, especially when there is so much on the line. If you want to improve your chances of success, you need a trusted drug crimes defense attorney in your corner who understands the law and how to craft a compelling defense.
Our Federal Drug Conspiracy Lawyers Can Help
Having a drug-related conviction on your criminal record can have an adverse effect on nearly every aspect of your life, possibly including your job, your personal relationships and your finances.
If you are facing conspiracy charges in connection with a federal drug crime like drug manufacturing, drug trafficking or drug smuggling, you need to act quickly to retain qualified legal counsel and protect your rights. With our experienced federal criminal defense attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Lawyers on your side, you can ensure that your case is in the hands of a professional who can help you get the best possible outcome. Contact our firm today to discuss your case and determine the best legal strategy based on your specific circumstances.