In federal court drug prosecutions, the most common way these offenses are prosecuted is with the federal conspiracy statute.
By indicting individuals with conspiracy to commit a drug trafficking offense, prosecutors are able to arguably jump through less hurdles in attempting to obtain a conviction as would be required in a prosecution of a substantive drug offense.
Additionally, with conspiracy, and associated issues such as relevant conduct (conduct of co-conspirators that was known to, or reasonably foreseeable to, the defense), the government can increase the amount of drugs and other conduct attributed to the defendant, significantly increasing the penalties for conviction, triggering harsh mandatory minimum sentences, as well as sentencing enhancements.
Conspiracy Over Time
Also, since a conspiracy can be alleged to have occurred over a significant period of time, prosecutors can use historical evidence, foregoing the need for the actual drug evidence, relying instead on witness testimony that the defendant sold a quantity of drug during a period of time. When a conspiracy is alleged to have occurred over a period of years, the drug amounts attributed to a defendant can be overwhelming.
Section 21 U.S.C. 846 is a federal statute that outlaws conspiracy to commit some other federal crime. Since conspiracy is a crime itself, a conviction for conspiracy also does not necessarily eliminate the possibility of convictions for substantive drug crimes occurring during the conspiracy period. The elements of a conspiracy are as follows:
The 3 Elements of Conspiracy:
1. an agreement about the objective of the conspiracy
2. specific intent to achieve that objective
3. an overt act in furtherance of the agreement (an act done by one of the conspirators to carry out the intent)
In federal court, the defense of drug cases require significant knowledge and experience of sentencing guidelines, enhancements, defenses, as well as a thorough understanding of issues such as Armed Career Criminal, Career Offender, and relevant conduct.