If you are being prosecuted in Federal court for a drug offense, there is a good chance you are charged with conspiracy. Prosecuting conspiracy in federal drug cases is one of the oldest tricks in the law enforcement book. In fact, it is a strategy that has been used by law enforcement to dismantle drug syndicates since the 1970’s. The purpose of this section is to explain conspiracy in federal drug cases and illustrate how it works.
Possession with Intent to Distribute: “Attempt” and “Conspiracy” Explained
Drug offenses are prosecuted in a variety of ways in Federal court – depending on the specific facts of any one case. In fact, criminal attorneys routinely encounter prosecutions for “attempt” and “conspiracy” especially when it comes to Federal drug offenses. The following will explain the difference between “attempt” and “conspiracy” as well as their role in the criminal justice system. We will also address the penalties for each type of crime.
Attempt to Possess with Intent to Distribute
The legal concept of “attempt” is very easy to understand. When it comes to “attempted” crimes, the law is referring to any positive efforts or actions taken to commit a crime, even if the crime doesn’t fully materialize. In such cases, a person can be held criminally liable for “attempt” to commit the crime, even if their efforts were frustrated, were cut short, or the crime was never fully completed.
For example, if you met an undercover agent or a confidential informant to effectuate a drug transaction, but you were arrested at the last second before the deal could go down, you could still be prosecute for the affirmative steps you took to make the deal happen.
This is a very important concept to understand because the penalties ARE THE SAME as if the transaction was fully completed.
In other words, when it comes to “attempt to possess with intent to distribute” under 21 USC §846, it makes no difference if the person was actually able to complete the criminal activity. So long as they took steps to effectuate one of the crimes listed in 21 USC §841 (manufacturing, dispensing, or distributing a controlled substance), 21 USC §842 (DEA registrants, like doctors, who unlawfully distribute controlled substances, such as at pain clinics), or 21 USC §843 (DEA registrants, like doctors, who distribute Schedule I or Schedule II drugs without license from the Attorney General of the United States), they are held responsible as if they had completed their acts.
Conspiracy to Possess with Intent to Distribute
The act of “conspiracy” is a similar to the concept of “attempt” but covers completely different conduct. Namely, when someone conspired to commit a violation of 21 USC §841, 21 USC §842, or 21 USC §843, it is implied that he/she took steps to commit the crime with another person or a group of people.
Conspiracy charges differ from attempt charges in that they involve actions of more than one person. To commit an act of conspiracy, a person must do something with another person or a group of people.
For example, if Federal agents used wire taps to record conversations where you and other people made plans to commit a violation of 21 USC §841, 21 USC §842, or 21 USC §843, you could be charged with conspiracy. Like an attempt charge, conspiracy charges carry the same penalties whether you completed the crime or not.