Did you know that making a phone call or giving somebody a lift in your car can lead to felony drug charges? It can happen if the authorities accuse you of being part of a criminal conspiracy.
Conspiracy is a type of inchoate crime, which means incomplete crime. Unlike, say, a drug trafficking charge, the prosecution does not have to prove that you committed every element of the crime. Instead, they simply have to show:
- You and at least one other person agreed to commit a drug crime together, AND
- at least one of you took a step toward fulfilling that plan
Note that simply agreeing to a plan to commit a crime is not itself an illegal conspiracy. You or one of your co-conspirators must take some action with the intention of making the plan happen. This step can be very small. And even if you take no further action and abandon the scheme, in the eyes of the law, you have committed criminal conspiracy. For example, calling or texting a potential connection could be enough evidence to prove that a conspiracy existed — even if the person never responded and no further action was ever taken.
Sentencing can be just as severe
While a conspiracy might seem to be a far less serious crime than an actual drug crime, the charges can be severe, especially if you are charged in federal court. For drug trafficking, the sentencing guidelines for conspiracy are the same as for the actual crime. Depending on the type and amount of drug that was the subject of the alleged conspiracy, you could face a minimum five-year prison sentence up to a life sentence. Even if you never actually acquired or possessed any drugs, you could go to prison for years, no matter how large or small your alleged part of the conspiracy.
Know your options first
Law enforcement and prosecutors often charge people with conspiracy to pressure them to cooperate with investigations. Before you agree to a plea bargain, you need to know your rights. A defense attorney can advise you of your options so you can make an intelligent decision.