Why Have I Been Charged with Conspiracy to Distribute?
Many people facing drug charges are surprised to find themselves charged with conspiracy to distribute. They had no intent to manufacture or sell drugs, and now they find themselves facing much harsher consequences than a simple possession charge. Conspiracy cases can be extremely complex, and if you’re not careful, you can wind up convicted of a crime you didn’t commit.
Fortunately, you do not have to face your charges alone. Philadelphia and New Jersey criminal defense lawyer Lauren Wimmer knows how to challenge a conspiracy to distribute charge and can help you get a fair result. If you need someone on your side who will fight for your rights, contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 to schedule a free consultation today.
Conspiracy to Distribute Explained
Conspiracy charges are confusing for many defendants as they aren’t often fully explained. A conspiracy to distribute charge is based upon an underlying possession with intent to distribute offense that involved more than one person. What makes conspiracy charges so challenging, however, is the fact that it can potentially be charged to anyone who had any involvement in the distribution of an illegal controlled substance.
You can be charged with conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance under either federal law or state law. Conspiracy charges are one of the tools that state and federal prosecutors use to aggressively pursue drug cases. Unfortunately, this means that people can be charged with conspiracy to distribute without being guilty of any other crime and when they did not intend to be involved in a drug crime.
What the Prosecution Must Prove in a Conspiracy Case
Prosecutors often charge people with conspiracy to distribute in an attempt to gain leverage and compel cooperation. They will make it sound like the case against you is open-and-shut, but it’s important to remember that they have to prove the charges against you. In order to convict you of conspiracy to distribute a controlled substance, the prosecution must prove the following elements:
- That you and at least one other person agreed to engage in the distribution of illegal drugs;
- That you participated in the distribution of illegal drugs knowingly, willingly, and intentionally;
- That you took a substantial step towards committing the crime.
The prosecution must prove these elements beyond a reasonable doubt, a very high burden of proof. The alleged agreement is rarely explicit, and the prosecution must often rely upon circumstantial or even hearsay evidence. Proving intent can also be difficult. What constitutes a “substantial step” can be difficult to define – it must be more than mere preparation, but prosecutors have a very broad notion of what actions are considered substantial.
That said, conspiracy charges can be easier to prove than you may think. The prosecution does not need to prove that you actually sold drugs or even possessed or manufactured drugs – they just need to prove that you and another person intended to distribute drugs and took substantial steps to commit the crime.
Circumstances that Can Trigger a Conspiracy to Distribute Charge
Conspiracy to distribute is charged in cases where there was an alleged distribution of drugs. As a result, if you are charged with simple possession, it’s unlikely that you will be charged with conspiracy to distribute. Here are some common circumstances that will lead prosecutors to file conspiracy to distribute charges:
- Someone was arrested with a large quantity of drugs.
- At the time of arrest, police discovered guns, cash, or other evidence of a drug distribution operation.
- The arrest discovered a large quantity of materials used in the manufacture or distribution of drugs such as scales, baggies, or chemicals.
- There is evidence that the drug operation involves multiple people, violence, or other illegal activities such as drug trafficking and money laundering.
As mentioned above, prosecutors use conspiracy charges in order to further their investigation of an illegal drug operation. As a result, they may charge a low-level offender with conspiracy to distribute in an attempt to get that person to testify against other members of the conspiracy in exchange for leniency.
Substances Likely to Lead to a Conspiracy to Distribute Charge
Some substances are more likely to lead to a conspiracy charge than others. As our nation moves toward legalizing marijuana, for example, it’s unlikely that you will be charged with conspiracy to distribute marijuana unless you are arrested with an unusually large amount of marijuana, and there is evidence of an organized drug operation.
Generally speaking, crimes involving harder drugs can often lead to conspiracy charges. Conspiracy to distribute charges are often involved in drug cases involving the following substances:
- Heroin and fentanyl
Due to the opioid epidemic, prosecutors are aggressively filing conspiracy charges in drug cases involving opioids.
The Potential Penalties for Conviction
The penalties you face if convicted of conspiracy to distribute will vary widely depending on the drugs involved, the quantity, your criminal history, and other circumstances surrounding the charge. That said, conspiracy to distribute is typically a felony charge. This means that you could potentially face years in prison and thousands of dollars in fines.
Your penalties will also depend on whether you are facing federal charges or charges under Pennsylvania law. While the charges may be almost similar, the federal sentencing guidelines often result in longer sentences and heavier fines that the state sentencing guidelines.
Defending Against a Conspiracy to Distribute Charge
An experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to evaluate the prosecution’s case and defend you against the charges. Some of the defenses you may be able to raise are as follows:
- Unlawful search and seizure
- Lack of intent
- You did not take any overt action to advance the crime
- You did not agree to participate
In order to establish a successful defense, understanding the law and how it applies to your case is critical.
Contact Philadelphia and New Jersey Criminal Defense Lawyer Lauren Wimmer
If you are facing conspiracy to distribute charges, time is not on your side. The best thing you can do is contact an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Criminal defense lawyer Lauren Wimmer helps people in Pennsylvania and New Jersey fight their charges and get a fair result. Contact Wimmer Criminal Defense Law at 215-712-1212 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation – the sooner you call us, the sooner we can help.