Most people understand the logic behind drug possession, trafficking, and drug sales being illegal. But, it usually gets complicated when “drug conspiracy” comes up. It can be a bewildering concept, but under federal law, conspiracy to commit a drug crime is illegal, and a conviction could subject you to the same penalties as if you had actually committed the offense. Drug conspiracy can apply in various circumstances, and it’s not necessarily required to know all the details of the conspiracy to be culpable. In fact, federal drug conspiracy attorneys frequently see clients who were not even aware they were liable until charges were filed against them.
A federal drug conspiracy charge should never be taken lightly. An experienced lawyer will be your most valuable ally when dealing with drug conspiracy or any federal drug charges. Contact the Roanoke drug defense lawyers with Copenhaver, Ellett, & Derrico if you’re being investigated in connection with a drug conspiracy in Virginia. We understand what constitutes a conspiracy, and how to build the best defense possible.
Elements of a Drug Conspiracy Charge
There is a common misconception that to be guilty of a drug conspiracy; you have to be aware of the full conspiracy. This is not the case. To prove that you’re guilty of a drug conspiracy the prosecution only has to prove that:
- You were part of an agreement, between two or more parties, who are not agents of law enforcement that violates federal drug law; and
- One of those people acted in furtherance of the agreement.
The agreement in question does not even have to be formal. If the government can show that an understanding existed between the parties, it can support a conspiracy charge. Also, if more than two individuals are involved, it won’t matter if one is a member of law enforcement.
Importantly, there is also no requirement that you be aware of everyone involved in the agreement. Prosecutors only need to show that you were part of an illegal agreement, and knew it was illegal. Similarly, it is not required that you take any explicit action to further the conspiracy. An act of furtherance can be something as innocuous as making a phone call or buying baggies at the grocery store.
While specific knowledge is necessary for some federal conspiracy laws, it is not an element of a drug conspiracy. For you to be convicted, the prosecution will merely have to establish that you knew the purpose of the conspiracy, if not its full extent and continued in your capacity.
This can seem subjective, especially if you believe that you didn’t actively participate in any illegal activity. However, if you are caught up in a federal drug conspiracy investigation, a drug conspiracy attorney can explain the nuances of the law and whether your actions constitute participation.
Penalties For Drug Conspiracy Charges
The United States prescribes mandatory minimum drug sentences for conspiracy to commit a drug crime. The federal sentencing guidelines for drug conspiracy charges are based on the amount drugs involved in the conspiracy.
According to federal law, the penalty for conspiring to commit a drug crime is the same as the punishment for the crime itself. You face a minimum of 10 years imprisonment for conspiracy to manufacture or distribute:
- One or more kilograms of any substance with a detectable amount of heroin;
- Five or more kilograms of any substance with a detectable amount of powder cocaine, crack, coca leaves or derivatives thereof;
- 100 grams or more of pure PCP, or at least one kilogram of any substances containing PCP;
- 400 grams or more of any substance containing a detectable amount of fentanyl;
- 10 grams or more of any substance containing LSD;
- 50 grams or more of a methamphetamine or its derivatives;
- 1000 or more kilograms of a substance containing marijuana; or
- 1000 marijuana plants, regardless of size.
In addition to possible imprisonment, you may face monetary fines and heightened penalties if you have prior convictions on your record. If your actions resulted in bodily harm, death, or damage to another, your penalty will also likewise increase.
If the drug conspiracy involved smaller amounts, but more than one-tenth of those listed, you would still face harsh punishments, including a minimum of five years in prison. As with larger amounts, your punishment will also increase in severity if you injure or kill anyone, or have prior convictions.
Possible Defenses to Drug Conspiracy Charges
Despite the stiff sentences attached to a drug conspiracy conviction, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help review your options and build an effective strategy. There are several defenses against a conspiracy conviction, including:
- A lack of agreement between the parties. The elements of a drug conspiracy charge do not require a formal agreement. This means that prosecutors may try to show an agreement existed where none did. If you can show that no agreement was made, you can avoid a drug conspiracy conviction.
- There was no act of furtherance – While there are few circumstances where ignorance can be used an excuse, if your attorney can show that an alleged act was not intended to further the conspiracy, it can seriously improve your situation.
- You were unaware of the unlawful agreement. While no formal agreement is required for a drug conspiracy, it is required that the conspirators have knowledge of the unlawful agreement. If you can show that you had no knowledge of the agreement (or that you didn’t know the agreement was unlawful), you are not guilty of drug conspiracy.
- The agreement was made under duress. You may be able to argue that you were coerced into agreeing to the conspiracy. For example, if you became involved with a drug distribution ring, and the other members threatened you to secure your involvement.
Contact Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico to Discuss Your Drug Conspiracy Charges
A federal drug conspiracy charge is complicated and requires attention from an extremely skilled attorney with a successful record in state and federal court. If you’re searching for a drug distribution defense lawyer because you’re suspected of being involved in a drug conspiracy in Virginia, contact Copenhaver, Ellett & Derrico today.
We are well-equipped to deal with your situation and strive to give out clients every opportunity to set the record straight. Let our Roanoke drug crimes lawyers prepare your defense, and protect your rights.