Federal Drug Conspiracy Defense Lawyers – 21 U.S.C. § 846
A drug conspiracy is an agreement by 2 or more people to commit a drug crime. A conspiracy is like a partnership, but rather than a partnership to conduct legal, legitimate business, it is a partnership to commit crimes. In this type of criminal case, a defendant can be held accountable based not only for his own wrongful acts, but also for the wrongful acts of others involved.
Furthermore, conspiracy is a separate charge from the charge that alleges the criminal act, so the punishment depends on the underlying drug charge. Federal drug laws provide punishment for anyone who attempts or conspires to commit any violations of the federal drug statute.
The punishment can be up to life, depending on the underlying drug charge. The most frequently charged federal drug statute carries punishment with a mandatory minimum of 10 years to life in federal prison.
Federal Drug Conspiracy Prosecutions
Federal criminal prosecutions involving narcotic drug distribution frequently include allegations under 21 U.S.C. § 846, the catch-all statute for all forms of drug-related criminal conspiracies.
As stated, a conspiracy is simply an agreement between two or more individuals to commit a crime. If the intended crime, or object, of the conspiracy is, at least in substantial part, to sell narcotics which are prohibited by federal law, then the government can potentially charge the members of the conspiracy, the “co-conspirators,” with a violation of Section 846.
Again, a conspiracy is simply an agreement. For that reason, members of the conspiracy can be charged even if they are not the major participants in the actual crimes committed. In many cases, the crime itself which is the object of the conspiracy is never successfully completed.
In a typical drug conspiracy case, the individual on one side of the transaction – the buyer or the seller – is actually a cooperating witness or a member of law enforcement. For that reason, not only is the drug deal not actually completed, but it was likely factually impossible that the sale would ever have occurred.
Nevertheless, a drug conspiracy charge can be filed against both the would-be buyer or seller in the room, but also against all of the other members of the conspiracy, such as the supplier, the go-between, etc. The key element of a conspiracy is an agreement, the existence of which must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Overt Acts to Further the Federal Drug Conspiracy
In addition to an agreement, a conspirator must take overt acts in furtherance of the conspiracy. In a Section 846 filing in federal criminal court, the Indictment will list certain overt acts which each member of the charged conspiracy are alleged to have undertaken.
These steps can be as direct as showing up to the drug deal and selling narcotics and as indirect as providing another member of the conspiracy with information, assistance, tools, etc. to further the success of the conspiracy.
Conversely, it is a defense to a drug conspiracy charge that the defendant abandoned the conspiracy before the crime was attempted. Put another way, if one of the co-conspirators breaks the agreement which formed the conspiracy, the larger conspiracy may remain active, but the defendant who abandoned it is no longer responsible for additional future crimes committed by the remaining members.
In practice, federal drug conspiracies, being federal crimes, must relate to interstate commerce. The scope of federal jurisdiction is nearly limitless with regard to drug crimes, but the practical reality is that only very large quantity drug sales activity, or activity additionally tied to gangs, terrorism, weapons trafficking, human trafficking, or other issues of international significance typically warrant a federal drug conspiracy prosecution.
Most low-level sales involving personal-use quantities and without indication of additional criminal activity continue to be prosecuted by the states. 21 U.S. Code § 848 defines the crime of continuing criminal enterprise.
Federal Sentencing Law
Another major factor in federal drug conspiracy charges is the draconian impact of federal sentencing law. Between mandatory minimums and high offense levels in the federal sentencing guidelines for drug offenses, particularly involving large weights/quantities of narcotics, it is likely that a federal drug conspiracy defendant will potentially be exposed to numerous years in federal prison if found guilty.
By the very nature of the offense, most defendants charged with these offenses will also be confronted with extensive investigative work product from federal law enforcement, and often video and audio recordings of the actual alleged sales activity. For these reasons, representation by counsel who can effectively negotiate the best possible settlement agreement with the government is of major benefit to a defendant.
In sum, federal drug conspiracy charges are very serious federal crimes which expose the defendant to a substantial period of time in custody. The ability to intervene before court and begin a process of plea negotiations with government is often key to obtaining the best possible results.
In some cases, motions to suppress based on violations of the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth amendment rights of the defendant are necessary to challenge the government's case and potentially exclude key evidence against the defendant at trial.
Experienced Federal Lawyers Defending Drug Conspiracy Charges
Whether the case ultimately settles or proceeds to trial, competent and experience counsel is required. If you, or someone you know, is facing federal drug conspiracy charges, our experienced federal criminal defense attorneys can consult with you about the necessary steps needed to move forward towards the best outcome.
Federal drug crimes case that are charged as conspiracies by a federal prosecutor are often complex and include a lengthy investigation. At Eisner Gorin LLP, our criminal lawyers have decades of experience defending clients charged with a variety of federal drug offenses. This includes drug manufacturing, drug trafficking, marijuana cultivation, prescription drug fraud, among others.
Our skilled federal defense lawyers will thoroughly investigate the criminal charges you are facing and will stand up for your legal rights in federal court. Due to our many years of law practice, we understand what the law states and the legal procedures the prosecutors are required to follow in obtaining evidence to use against you. We employ our own private investigator to help obtain an effective resolution to your case.
If you have been arrested for federal drug conspiracy or currently under investigation for a drug crime by the federal government, contact our law office to get the strong defense you will need going forward. We offer a free case evaluation to discuss the specific details that led to your arrest. Call 877-781-1570 or fill out online contact form to have one of our lawyers contact you.
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