When it comes to the drug trade, one-person operations are few and far between. For the most part, there are usually multiple people involved in the trafficking or manufacturing of controlled substances. Federal law carries substantial penalties for those convicted of trafficking or manufacturing drugs, but prosecutors rarely stop there.
Federal prosecutors also commonly make use of a federal conspiracy statute. Under this statute, the government can prosecute anyone that allegedly conspired to violate federal drug laws. This applies even when the actions of the defendant are not inherently criminal. What this means is that innocent people who are not engaged in drug trafficking often get charged under conspiracy simply because they are in close proximity to those who are engaged in illegal activity.
There is an obvious downside to the federal government having such broad leeway to bring charges. Prosecutors can charge a large number of people with conspiracy despite lacking the evidence to convict. Their hope is that one person will agree to cut a deal and testify against other people involved. This tactic frequently leads to arrests of innocent people and prosecution despite a lack of evidence. If you are facing federal charges for conspiracy, contact attorney Doug Murphy right away.
Elements of Conspiracy
Federal drug conspiracy charges are governed by 21 U.S. Code § 846. At its core, a conspiracy is an agreement among two or more people to commit a federal drug crime. This crime could be drug manufacturing or trafficking, to name a few. A conspiracy charge is difficult to defend, as the statute could be violated long before the underlying drug crime is committed. The prosecution does not have to establish that you knew the full details of the conspiracy, and they do not have to show that you were aware of all of the involved parties. As long as a prosecutor can prove that you were aware you were entering into a conspiracy to violate federal drug crimes, they could obtain a conviction.
There are three important elements to the crime of conspiracy, and a prosecutor must establish each one. These elements include the following:
- An agreement was made between two or more people,
- You voluntarily joined the agreement, and
- You knew the criminal nature of the agreement.
These agreements do not have to be formal or in writing. In fact, spoken words are not even necessary to cement a conspiracy charge. If the government establishes an unspoken agreement to enter into a drug conspiracy, it is enough for a conviction.
There are other types of federal conspiracy charges outside of drug crimes. These crimes typically require more than just an agreement. Instead, they require a substantial action taken towards completing the crime, known as an overt act.
These acts are not necessary for a federal drug conspiracy case, however. There is no need for the prosecutor to establish that you have done anything more than agree to participate in the scheme. This makes a conviction for drug conspiracy much easier than under other conspiracy statutes.
Drug conspiracy charges are always treated as felonies under federal law. However, these crimes do not carry their own set of sentencing ranges. Instead, the penalties you face are directly tied to the underlying crime in a conspiracy.
For example, if you are charged with conspiracy to traffic a controlled substance, you will face the same penalty range as if you were found guilty of trafficking. For large quantities of drugs, this could lead to a lifetime behind bars.
Because of the severe nature of these penalties, taking on a conspiracy charge without experienced legal help could be a costly error. Your attorney could evaluate the charged against you and advise you of your odds of success.
No two drug conspiracy charges are alike. Because of this, the defenses that could work in your case might be entirely different than those available to other defendants. Thankfully, there are multiple valid defenses available in drug conspiracy cases.
One of the most common defenses results from the nature of the crime itself. If your attorney can demonstrate that the plaintiff has failed to establish every element of the crime, you could be acquitted. This could occur by showing you were unaware of the nature of the conspiracy, that you did not agree to join, or even that you were acting alone.
It is also common to defend a drug conspiracy charge based on constitutional grounds. You are protected from unlawful searches or seizures thanks to the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution; if police violate your rights, the evidence they seize could be excluded from trial.
Many conspiracy cases result from false testimony. Prosecutors frequently rely on the word of people behind bars looking to cut a deal. It is common for witnesses to implicate people in a conspiracy in an effort to earn a lighter sentence for their cooperation. Your attorney could establish that you had no contact with the witness against you, or that they were otherwise being untruthful.
Mistakes are also commonplace in these cases. Drug conspiracy prosecutions frequently involve a large number of people, and in certain cases they could all be arrested at once. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time can have severe consequences if you find yourself caught up in a drug sting. There are other types of mistakes that could haunt you, as well. A case of mistaken identity or even a clerical error on a written report could result in your arrest. When these mistakes happen, you have to rely on your lawyer to help you prove what really happened.
How a Houston Drug Conspiracy Attorney Could Help
With a drug conspiracy charge, your future hangs in the balance. Federal drug prosecutors are aggressive, and they win the vast majority of the cases they file. That said, you could have a chance to prevail in your case, depending on the facts.
The other factor that can have a huge impact on your freedom is your choice of a Board Certified criminal defense attorney. Doug Murphy has served as an advocate for the accused throughout his career. He has taken on the government before, and he looks forward to doing it again in your case. While there is no guarantee of a positive outcome in any federal prosecution, the Doug Murphy Law Firm, P.C. will help you build the best defense possible. Call now to learn more.