Conspiracy and Drug Offenses

Aug 12, 2015

In Florida, in addition to being charged with a criminal offense such as theft or drug trafficking, a person can be charged with conspiracy to commit the crime. Conspiracy means plotting with one or more people to commit a criminal offense. Florida’s drug crimes statute specifically includes a provision addressing and penalizing the conspiracy to commit a drug offense.

Conspiracy

Under Florida law, a person commits the crime of conspiracy when he or she enters an express or implied agreement between two or more parties to commit a crime. Any person who conspires to commit a drug crime commits a first degree felony.

To prove the existence of a conspiracy, the prosecution must show that the defendant:

  • Intended that the crime be committed
  • Agreed, conspired, combined, or confederated with another person in order to carry out the offense

The co-conspirators may conspire to carry out the crime themselves, or they may plan to have a third party carry it out.

In convicting a person of conspiracy, it is not necessary for the prosecution to show any acts in furtherance of the conspiracy. Rather, the prosecutor must merely show the existence of the agreement and prove its illegal nature.

One important element of a conspiracy is that everyone must be conspiring to commit the same crime. This means that, if every co-conspirator does his or her part, then every element of a criminal offense must be satisfied.

Another important consideration is that, in order to be a co-conspirator, a defendant must be involved in planning the offense. Aiding and abetting, or just helping out in the commission of the crime, is not enough. And the contribution to the conspiracy must be more than minimal. The defendant must be more than marginally involved with criminal actors and must have more than a mere knowledge of the crime. Simple presence at the scene of the crime is not sufficient to sustain conspiracy charges.

Separate Offense

Conspiracy is a separate and independent offense from the crime that is the purpose of the conspiracy. Thus, an offender may be charged with both conspiracy and the underlying crime. The principle of double jeopardy prevents defendants from being tried twice for the same crime, but the elements of conspiracy and the underlying crime are different, so double jeopardy does not cover this situation.

Hampton v. State

In Hampton v. State, Hampton, a low-level drug dealer, was convicted of conspiracy to traffic in cocaine. A wiretap revealed several conversations between Hampton and a supplier, Crichlow, in which they discussed transactions using code words. Hampton said that he should not be convicted because he did not agree to commit the same act as Crichlow. He argued that buying and selling are different acts.

But the court said that often, in a conspiracy, the members play different roles. For example, in a drug case, one person may be manufacturing, another transporting, another selling, another purchasing, etc. Though their roles are different, they are all still conspiring to commit the same offense.

Even if the underlying crime is never committed, you can be convicted of the conspiracy to commit a drug offense. If you have been charged with conspiracy or another drug crime, please contact West Palm Beach criminal defense attorney William Wallshein for a free initial consultation.