Drug conspiracy is one of the most frequently charged drug-related crimes in the United States. This type of criminal charge is common in federal drug cases, mainly because it is easier for federal prosecutors to prove that a defendant conspired to commit a drug crime than it is to prove that the defendant actually committed the crime. In fact, a crime doesn’t even have to take place for the prosecution to prove a drug conspiracy case, nor does the prosecution have to have any hard evidence of the defendant’s guilt, such as drugs in his or her possession. That means you could end up being charged with conspiracy to distribute drugs whether or not you actually delivered or distributed any of the drugs in question; so long as the prosecution can show that you conspired with someone else to commit the crime, it can prove its case. If you are facing federal drug conspiracy charges in California or anywhere else in the United States, you need the expertise of Daniel R. Perlman and his team of knowledgeable defense lawyers at Federal Criminal Defense Pro on your side.
Experienced Federal Drug Conspiracy Attorney
The law prohibiting drug conspiracy is broad and when it comes to trying drug-related cases in federal court, the drug conspiracy statute gives prosecutors the opportunity to charge alleged conspirators with a criminal offense regardless of whether the crime they allegedly conspired to commit was ever carried out. For this reason, it is not uncommon for innocent individuals to be punished for a crime they didn’t commit or didn’t realize they were committing, due to overzealous federal prosecutors looking for a conviction. Any time you are facing federal criminal charges for drug conspiracy or another drug-related offense, your first course of action should be to retain a skilled criminal defense attorney with experience handling federal drug cases. Federal Criminal Defense Pro is based in Los Angeles, and Daniel Perlman and his team of criminal defense lawyers regularly represent clients in drug conspiracy cases throughout California and across the United States. As a former prosecutor, Daniel Perlman is familiar with both state and federal drug conspiracy laws and can mount a solid defense regardless of where your drug case is pending. Our attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Pro know what constitutes a conspiracy and we know how to present the strongest defense in a federal drug conspiracy case to get the best possible outcome. We also offer prospective clients a free initial consultation and case evaluation, so don’t hesitate to call.
What Constitutes a Drug Conspiracy?
In criminal law, a drug conspiracy is an agreement between two or more people to commit a drug-related offense, and drug conspiracy charges can be brought in federal court if the conspiracy to commit a drug crime is in violation of federal drug law. For the purposes of drug conspiracy charges, a conspiracy can be a simple understanding between two or more people, it does not need to be a formal agreement. Federal drug conspiracy laws cover a variety of drug-related offenses, including conspiring to:
- Possess a controlled substance
- Possess a controlled substance with the intent to distribute the substance
- Manufacture a controlled substance
- Distribute or dispense a controlled substance
- Import a controlled substance
What is a Controlled Substance?
A controlled substance is any chemical, drug or substance, legal or illegal, whose possession, use or manufacture is regulated by the government. This includes both illicit drugs like cocaine and heroin and prescription medications like Vicodin and Adderall. Controlled substances are regulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and are classified into different “schedules” based on their accepted medical use, if any, and how likely they are to cause dependence or addiction. The following are the five main schedules for controlled substances:
- Schedule I drugs: Marijuana, LSD, heroin and ecstasy
- Schedule II drugs: Morphine, cocaine, oxycodone, Adderall, Vicodin and Ritalin
- Schedule III drugs: Testosterone, anabolic steroids and Tylenol with codeine
- Schedule IV drugs: Valium, Ambien, Xanax and Valium
- Schedule V drugs: Lyrica and cough suppressants
Criminal Penalties for Drug Conspiracy Charges
Pursuant to 21 U.S. Code § 846, any person who attempts or conspires to commit any of the above-mentioned drug-related offenses is subject to the same penalties as those associated with the underlying drug crime (i.e. the penalties for conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance are the same as the penalties for distributing a controlled substance). That means even if you didn’t actually succeed in distributing a controlled substance, the fact that you attempted or conspired to do so means you are subject to the same criminal penalties as if you succeeded in committing the crime of drug distribution.
The criminal punishments for drug-related federal crimes are governed by the federal sentencing guidelines, which establish a statutory minimum and statutory maximum sentencing range for specific drug-related charges. In other words, rather than the sentencing being left up to the discretion of the judge overseeing the case, the court is generally required to sentence a defendant in a federal drug case to a term of imprisonment that falls within the statutory range set forth by the federal sentencing guidelines.
The actual term of imprisonment for a drug-related crime depends on the type and quantity of the drug involved in the offense. For instance, if you are found guilty of conspiring to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, you could face a minimum prison sentence of five years and a maximum sentence of 40 years. Being charged with a federal drug crime like drug conspiracy can also result in the seizure of your personal property. Under 21 U.S.C. § 853, the government has the right to seize any money or property that was “obtained, directly or indirectly, as the result of” a drug-related crime, like drug conspiracy, or any property that was “used, or intended to be used, in any manner or part, to commit, or to facilitate the commission” of the drug crime.
Sentencing Enhancements in Drug Conspiracy Cases
There are certain aggravating factors that can increase the mandatory minimum sentence for federal drug conspiracy charges. These aggravating factors are known as sentencing enhancements and the two most common enhancements are as follows:
- An individual suffers serious bodily injury or death as a result of the drug conspiracy, or
- The defendant has one or more prior felony convictions for drug-related offenses.
For example, if you are found guilty of conspiring to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin and death or serious bodily injury occurs as a result of the crime, you could face 20 years to life in prison. If you have a prior conviction for a serious drug felony or violent felony and you are convicted on charges of conspiring to distribute 100 grams or more of heroin, you could face a prison sentence of 10 years to life.
Drug Conspiracy Defense
In order to prove that a defendant is guilty of drug conspiracy charges, the prosecution must establish the following “elements” of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt:
- There was an agreement between two or more people to commit a drug crime in violation of federal drug law,
- The defendant knew that the conspiracy existed, and
- The defendant voluntarily joined the conspiracy.
In order to find you guilty of conspiring to commit a drug crime, the prosecution does not even need to prove that you knew the full scope of the conspiracy or all of the people involved. And while most federal conspiracy laws specify that the defendant must have engaged in an “overt act” to further the conspiracy in order to be convicted, the overt act requirement does not apply to drug conspiracy charges. The prosecution will need to establish, however, that you knew the main purpose of the conspiracy. For instance, if you are accused of conspiring to distribute a controlled substance, the prosecution must prove that you knew you were involved in an agreement with one or more other people for the purpose of distributing said controlled substance.
Drug Conspiracy Defense Strategies
Even if you don’t follow through with the drug crime you have allegedly conspired to commit, you can be charged with drug conspiracy and this offense can result in a lengthy prison sentence and considerable fines. Fortunately, the law requires that all defendants in criminal cases are presumed innocent until proven guilty and it is up to the prosecution to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. That doesn’t mean showing that you likely committed the crime or that you could have been involved in the drug conspiracy, but that there is no other logical explanation for the facts except that you are guilty of the crime. The key to beating drug conspiracy charges and winning your case is to challenge the prosecution’s version of events and raise reasonable doubt about your guilt. The following are some possible defense strategies your attorney may be able to use in your drug conspiracy case:
- There was no agreement
- You did not know about the agreement
- You did not intend to join the agreement
- You knew about the conspiracy or you were present when the agreement was made, but you did not join it
- The agreement was made under duress
- You withdrew from the agreement
- You were the victim of entrapment
- The evidence against you was obtained during an illegal search
How an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help
Federal drug laws can be tricky and it is easy to get tangled up in a drug conspiracy case without even realizing that you have done anything wrong. Keep in mind that it is also possible to be accused of drug conspiracy in California without ever actually possessing, buying, selling or distributing illegal drugs. Drug conspiracy charges can apply to a variety of situations and could subject you to the same criminal penalties as if you had actually committed the underlying crime, but that doesn’t mean being accused of drug conspiracy is the end of the line. You have the right to defend yourself against drug conspiracy charges and the best way to do so is to hire a criminal defense attorney who specializes in federal drug conspiracy cases.
Because drug conspiracy cases don’t necessarily require any direct evidence of the defendant’s involvement in a criminal act, many of these types of cases are built on the testimony of one or more “cooperating witnesses,” who are usually trading their testimony for a lesser sentence or immunity (an agreement not to prosecute) and whose credibility we will immediately call into question. When you retain our firm, our criminal defense lawyers will do everything in their power to put forth a compelling defense on your behalf, thoroughly investigating the circumstances surrounding your criminal charge, advising you of your legal rights and the options available to you under the law, and representing your defense to the best of our ability throughout the duration of your case. Daniel Perlman and the defense attorneys at Federal Criminal Defense Pro have a long history of successfully defending clients against drug-related charges, and with our legal team on your side, you can significantly improve your chances of winning your drug conspiracy case and clearing your name.
Contact Our Federal Drug Conspiracy Lawyers Today
Many people in California don’t realize that they can be charged with a violation of federal drug law even if they didn’t actually commit a drug crime. It is true that simply agreeing to commit a drug-related offense may constitute the crime of drug conspiracy and could be enough to warrant a conviction under federal law, even if that person never followed through with the crime. Unfortunately, because of the vague nature of drug conspiracy laws in the United States, more innocent people are charged with conspiring to commit a drug crime than perhaps any other drug-related charge, which is why you need a reputable federal criminal defense lawyer protecting your rights from the very beginning. Federal drug cases are always serious and drug conspiracy charges should never be taken lightly. If you are facing criminal charges for a federal offense like drug conspiracy, no matter how small your role in the alleged conspiracy, contact Daniel R. Perlman today to represent your defense.