Q. What makes a drug crime a conspiracy?
A. A conspiracy is simply an agreement between two or more people to commit a criminal act. The agreement does not have to be express, so long as the participants in the conspiracy knew generally that they were planning to commit illegal acts together. In drug cases, it means that the government believes that two or more people were working together to manufacture or sell illegal drugs. You don’t actually have to have sold or manufactured drugs yourself in order to be found guilty of a conspiracy. For instance, if you drove someone to a location knowing they were going to sell drugs to someone else, you could be found guilty of being part of a conspiracy.
Q. What makes a drug conspiracy case federal?
A. The federal government has jurisdiction over most drugs and narcotics, both legal and illegal, either manufactured in the United States or imported into the United States. However, the federal government does not have the resources to prosecute all drug crimes. Street level sales of drugs are often handled by state and local authorities. The federal government prefers to use its resources to arrest and prosecute persons involved in large scale sales or manufacturing of illegal drugs. This often results in long investigations that result in the arrest of dozens of persons who are all charged in one large conspiracy.
Q. What evidence does the government need to prove a drug conspiracy?
A. The government typically investigates conspiracies using a variety of techniques to gather evidence. They use confidential informants and undercover officers to make purchases of drugs from alleged members of the conspiracy. The government will secretly listen to phone calls to determine who is part of the conspiracy. Agents will conduct surveillance of persons they believe are involved in the conspiracy. The government will also use search warrants to try to find the locations of drugs, drug manufacturing equipment and money from drug sales. They can even use GPS tracking devices to determine where alleged members of the conspiracy are traveling.
Q. What are the penalties for a drug conspiracy?
A. The penalties for those convicted of a drug conspiracy can be severe. You can be exposed to prison time and heavy fines. Prison sentences in federal drug conspiracy cases are determined by the quantity of drugs involved in the conspiracy. The more drugs involved, the higher the sentence including up to life in prison. Many conspiracy charges also carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years or more. Even if you personally did not possess a large amount of drugs you can be found responsible for the total amount of drugs involved in the conspiracy which can subject you to a long prison sentence.
Q. How do you fight a federal drug conspiracy charge?
A. There are many ways to fight against a federal drug conspiracy charge. The first step it to have an experienced attorney to defend you. The attorney can review the evidence against you and determine all possible defenses. An attorney may be able to keep evidence out of court if the government obtained it in violation of your constitutional rights. An attorney can also challenge the credibility of any confidential informants who testify at trial or demonstrate that you were not actually part of the conspiracy at all. There may be other defenses available, including whether the substances involved in the case were really illegal narcotics. If you are charged with a federal drug conspiracy, you will need all the advantages and protections an experienced attorney can provide.