Defending Drug Conspiracy Charges
What is a Federal Drug Conspiracy?
In simplest terms, a criminal conspiracy is an agreement between two or more persons to commit a crime. Essentially, one person will be caught committing a crime (like distribution of methamphetamine) and several other individuals will be charged with conspiracy (in this case, conspiracy to distribute the drug).
Can You Be Arrested for Conspiracy Without Any Evidence?
There must be evidence linking others to the crime, but less than you might think. Individuals are often arrested in federal drug conspiracy cases with very little physical evidence. In fact, it is not uncommon for someone who has never been associated with the drug to be arrested in a cocaine conspiracy case.
Often, someone caught distributing an illegal drug will work out a deal with the government to proffer, or spill his or her guts. During the proffer, this person will tell the government everything he or she knows about the drug distribution, not only providing names but also the amount of drugs, or “weight,” other people are involved with. When someone is arrested in a conspiracy case without previously being caught with drugs, it is referred to as a “dry conspiracy.” It is possible to be convicted in dry conspiracy cases, even when the evidence is circumstantial.
Show Me Your Friends and I’ll Show You Your Future
It is not uncommon for someone with no criminal record to show up on several proffer statements. In drug conspiracy cases, if enough people say you did it, the government will believe them. For example, Joe has five friends who have all been arrested for conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. After the arrest, police find Joe’s number in each of their phones. Two of the co-conspirators indicate that they sold methamphetamine from Joe’s house and can describe where he lives and give the names of several roommates. If prosecutors believe the five snitches, there is a good chance that Joe will be indicted. While Joe has the right to a jury trial, the jury may be suspicious because his friends caught with the drug all say he was involved, too. In the federal system, those indicted face serious prison time. Because no one wants to spend ten years to life in prison, most people cooperate to get a lesser sentence.
Why Do So Many People Cooperate in Drug Conspiracy Cases?
Approximately 90% of federal conspiracy cases result in pleas. There are a few reasons why so many people plead guilty.
First there is the matter of risk mitigation. Anyone facing a mandatory minimum of ten years, common in criminal cases, knows the only ways around it are through what is known as a “safety valve” process or by cooperating with the federal government. Both require a defendant to plead guilty to criminal charges. Anyone facing ten years to life in prison who can walk away in four years or less with a good plea agreement is likely to take it.
Another reason behind federal drug conspiracy pleas is the fact that federal prosecutors rarely indict on weak cases. At Berry Law, we’ve been involved in federal cases in the western half of Nebraska involving cocaine, methamphetamine, and even child pornography in which the federal government chose not to pursue an indictment and the charges remained with the state. In each of those cases, we found serious problems with the investigation conducted by law enforcement and suspected that the federal prosecutors felt the same way.
What to Do if Your Friends are Being Indicted
If your friends are being indicted and you’re involved in the same illegal activities, you may end up being indicted, too. You have the option of contacting a criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. The sooner a criminal defense attorney is contacted, the sooner he or she can help. If you are facing federal drug conspiracy charges, contact Berry Law today.