Conspiracy Lawyers with Experience and Knowledge
Under 18 U.S.C. § 371, Federal Conspiracy is punishable by a fine or imprisoned not more than five years, or both. If, however, the offense, the commission of which is the object of the conspiracy, is a misdemeanor only, the punishment for such conspiracy shall not exceed the maximum punishment provided for such misdemeanor.
When you are accused of being involved in a criminal enterprise, in most cases the government prosecutors will bring everything they have against you. This will typically include charges for conspiracy. Conspiring to commit a federal drug crime is a crime all its own, and carries its own steep fines and prison time.
By charging you with conspiracy, the prosecutors are trying to hold you responsible for the acts of your co-conspirators. Many times, this is done in order to pressure one person into testifying against another in exchange for a reduced sentence or lesser charges. If one of your co-conspirators hires an attorney and starts talking, you may be the one left-facing trial for the actions of the group even if you did not participate directly.
Conspiracy Crimes Explained
What Constitutes an “Agreement”
The agreement required for a conspiracy does not have to be in writing. In fact, it does not even have to be explicitly stated between the co-conspirators. If the government’s investigation shows that everyone involved knew what was going on, this can be enough to establish an implied or implicit agreement to support a charge of conspiracy.
Knowing You are Part of a Conspiracy
Importantly, in order to be part of a conspiracy, you do not need to know everyone involved. In fact, the federal government can bring conspiracy charges against people who have never even met. How? There are two different kinds of conspiracy under federal law.
The first kind of conspiracy is known as a chain conspiracy. In a typical chain conspiracy, one person manufactures a drug and sells it to a wholesaler, and then the wholesaler uses individual sellers on the street to distribute the drug to customers at retail. In this scenario, the manufacturer, wholesaler, and each retailer are part of a chain conspiracy, and it is very possible that the manufacturer and retailers have never met.
This situation also involves the second kind of conspiracy, known as a spoke and hub conspiracy. Here, the wholesaler is the hub, and each of the retailers is a spoke. Since all of the spokes work independently of one another, they too may never meet. Yet, if their operation is uncovered in a federal investigation, everyone involved can be charged with conspiring to violate federal law.
Acts in Furtherance of a Conspiracy
The “overt act” requirement ensures that people are not charged with conspiracy simply for thinking about committing a crime. However, the action required is minimal, and it is enough for a single member of the conspiracy to take action in furtherance of the overall plan. In addition, the act itself does not need to be part of the planned crime itself or even a crime of its own. Lawful activity (such as purchasing lab equipment) can support a charge for conspiracy if it is in furtherance of an intended crime (such as cooking methamphetamine, processing cocaine, or synthesizing LSD).
Defending Against Federal Conspiracy Charges
Under federal law, a conspiracy is essentially an agreement between two or more people to commit a crime. In order to convict you for being part of a conspiracy to commit a federal drug crime, the government must prove:
- You entered into an agreement with at least one other person to commit a federal drug crime,
- Each co-conspirator knew that they were part of the agreement and intended to commit a crime, and
- A member of the conspiracy undertook some overt act in furtherance of the agreement.
Looking at each of these elements above in more detail, it is easy to see why prosecutors will often tack on conspiracy charges with other drug-related offenses.
Penalties for Federal Conspiracy
Conspiracy charges relating to federal drug crimes are governed by 18 U.S.C. Section 371, which makes it illegal to conspire to commit a violation of federal law. If convicted of participating in a conspiracy under Section 371, you can face fines and up to five years in federal prison. If you are also convicted of committing any drug crimes, this will be in addition to your sentence for those crimes as well.
Speak with an Experienced Defense Attorney about Your Situation Today
At the Oberheiden, P.C., we provide experienced criminal defense for individuals charged with conspiracy to commit federal drug crimes. We represent clients throughout the country and have a reputation for preserving our client’s freedom and vigorously enforcing their legal rights. To schedule a free case evaluation with one of our attorneys, call (888) 727-0472 or contact us online today.
Dr. Nick Oberheiden is a national litigation and trial criminal defense attorney who practices exclusively in the area of federal law.