Have you been charged with drug conspiracy in Houston, Texas? It's not an uncommon charge and it is a way the police can arrest as many people as possible. The only problem: law-abiding citizens get arrested too. The police hope they can use the conspiracy charge to threaten you. They want to obtain information from you, and they will make promises that in exchange for information, they will go easy on you. And they won't believe you when you claim your innocence.
You should remember, though, that you have the right to remain silent. And you should remain so until you have an experienced Houston drug conspiracy lawyer by your side. Experienced criminal defense matters in cases like these because it often takes the insight from that experience to lead to a successful end. These charges are serious even if only “conspiracy” in nature.
Your experienced Houston criminal defense attorney will review your case, investigate if appropriate, identify the State's weaknesses, challenge evidence and testimony, and ensure that if the case goes to trial the judge and jury will uphold the principle of not guilty until proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In Texas conspiracy cases, it's much easier to charge someone with the crime than to prosecute the crime, and Doug Murphy, a veteran criminal defense lawyer who is Board-certified in criminal defense, will aggressively pursue your case.
What Does Drug Conspiracy Mean in Texas?
In Texas, if you are charged with drug conspiracy, you could be facing federal or state charges. Determining if the drug conspiracy charge is prosecuted as a federal or state crime depends on the type and quantity of the drug in question, and whether the activity extended beyond Texas borders. Sometimes a drug conspiracy charge is filed on its own, and other times the charge is in addition to other criminal charges, including the crime subject to the conspiracy.
Federal Drug Conspiracy
Conspiracy with the intent to distribute drugs is one of the most common federal charges in Texas. The charge relates to 21 U.S.C. § 842 and is found under 21 U.S.C. § 846.
Section 842 provides that
...it shall be unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally—
(1) to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance; or
(2) to create, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to distribute or dispense, a counterfeit substance.
Section 846 provides that
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.
Thus, even though a drug conspiracy charge is only about you and someone else, at a minimum, allegedly planning to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with the intent to do the same, a controlled substance, you can still -- if convicted -- suffer the same penalties as though the crime was committed. Federal penalties are severe and can include a minimum of 10 years in prison and thousands if not millions of dollars in fines, all of which depend on the drugs involved, your criminal record, enhancement circumstances like being in a school zone when arrested, and other relevant factors.
Texas Drug Conspiracy
Texas Penal Code § 15.02, Criminal Conspiracy, provides that
A person commits criminal conspiracy if, with intent that a felony be committed:
(1) he agrees with one or more persons that they or one or more of them engage in conduct that would constitute the offense; and
(2) he or one or more of them performs an overt act in pursuance of the agreement.
Texas' code of criminal conspiracy specifically requires an “overt” act in pursuance of the agreement. That said, this overt act does not need to be committed by you; it could be completed by the other party to the conspiracy. In such cases, you would still be charged with conspiracy and face the same penalties as the other party.
Like the federal statute, you can be charged with drug conspiracy even if you did not participate in the underlying crime if indeed that crime was accomplished.
What Elements Must be Proven?
Proving conspiracy is often more difficult than proving the crime associated with the conspiracy. The prosecutor must have a solid understanding of the facts and evidence that corroborates the facts. The evidence must satisfy certain elements.
- Federally, and at a minimum, it must be shown that an agreement was made, that you agreed voluntarily, and that you knew the conspiracy existed. Once this element occurs, each party to the agreement is liable for the behavior of the other co-conspirators. But an agreement alone does not suffice a drug conspiracy crime in Texas.
- In Texas, it must be shown that at least one overt act was taken in furtherance of the conspiracy. This act must be related to the conspiracy and must be substantial, but it does not have to be an illegal act if on its own. An example of an overt act could be something like opening a bank account knowing that it will be used for illegal operation.
What are the Penalties if Found Guilty of Drug Conspiracy?
Penalties are determined by the jurisdiction--whether the drug conspiracy was prosecuted as a state or federal crime. It also depends on the facts and circumstances, including but not limited to prior convictions, aggravating factors, the drugs involved, and the quantity of drugs. The range of punishment possibilities is wide. In federal cases, you face forfeiture and seizure of property, probation, long-term incarceration from 1 year to life, and steep fines up to $25 million if an individual (and not a criminal organization).
The primary distinction with a conviction of drug conspiracy at the state or federal level and sentencing of the same is classification. Under federal law, sentencing for a drug conspiracy charge is the same as the underlying offense. Under Texas law, a drug conspiracy charge is
one category lower than the most serious felony that is the object of the conspiracy.
For example, if you were charged with drug conspiracy to distribute 1,000 kg of marijuana, a federal conviction for a first offense would mean a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years but up to life, and the fine can be upwards to $4 million if an individual and $10 million if other than an individual. The classification for the same in Texas is an enhanced first-degree felony, and one category below is first-degree felony; thus, a person would face a minimum of 5 years to no more than life in state prison and a fine not to exceed $10,000.
How do You Fight a Drug Conspiracy Charge?
It is up to the prosecution to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you conspired to manufacture, distribute, or possess drugs for the same purpose. To do so, evidence must be provided that shows an agreement, i.e., you knew the act was illegal but you agreed to the same with at least one other person. If it is a Texas drug conspiracy charge, the State must also provide that at least one person to the agreement made an overt step towards committing the drug crime.
Your experienced criminal defense lawyer will work to weaken the evidence and strengthen any doubt. Doug Murphy, for instance, will challenge any constitutional violations, particularly the fourth or fifth amendments, and will challenge expert testimony, including police testimony and any government informant testimony.
In addition to challenging the State's evidence, there are viable defenses that could apply to certain cases. These defenses include renunciation, withdrawal, or impossibility.
- Renunciation is an affirmative defense where you obstructed the execution of the conspiracy and abandoned the agreement completely and voluntarily.
- Withdrawal is another defense where you inform all other co-conspirators that you are withdrawing from the conspiracy and do not intend to take part in the criminal act and that this notice causes other co-conspirators to withdraw.
- Impossibility is a less likely defense because it refers to co-conspirators agreeing to commit an act that they believe is illegal but is in fact not illegal.
Charges of conspiracy are harder to defeat at the federal level than at the state level because of the absence to prove an overt act was taken towards the success of the conspiracy. With an experienced criminal defense lawyer like Doug Murphy, your chances of defeating the charge are better. He uses a comprehensive, aggressive approach to defend drug charges and will pursue a trial if that's what needs to be done to fight for your freedom.
Houston Drug Conspiracy Defense Lawyer
If you have been charged with drug conspiracy, the charge should not be taken lightly. A conviction fo the same means years of incarceration and steep fines, regardless if you are convicted for a state or federal offense. Not all criminal defense attorneys have the insight and skill to address these complex matters. Doug Murphy, however, has the insight and skills from extensive experience in criminal defense law. His capabilities have been recognized by the legal community, which has endorsed his name through accolades and frequent invitations to speak at seminars on criminal defense.
At Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C., you can expect commitment and the best result according to the facts and circumstances of your case. Contact Doug Murphy today.