Methamphetamine Beware (Part 2: Conspiracy in Federal Court)
01/01/2005 - In part one of this series I briefly discussed how the sentencing guidelines work. A central part of the federal sentencing guidelines is that on drug charges, the amount of time you serve is based the amount of drugs you're "responsible for," or, in legal terms, your "relevant conduct." In a normal simple drug charge you could simply take the amount of drugs you were caught with and use that to calculate your sentence. In real life there are rarely normal simple drug charges. In federal court there are instead, "CONSPIRACIES".
If you're charged in federal court the chances are very high that you will be charged with conspiracy. A conspiracy exists if: 1) If the Defendant and one or more people agree to violate the law; 2) the Defendant knew the essential elements of the conspiracy; 3) the Defendant knowingly and voluntarily took part in the conspiracy; and 4) the co-conspirators were interdependent.
So, you may be asking, what's that mean in real life? Well, in a nut shell, it means that if you are part of a drug ring or helping some one who is part of a drug ring you are committing a crime and you are going to be sentenced for most if not all the weights involved in the entire conspiracy even though you played no more than a small part.
An example may help. Bob, the methamphetamine dealer (whose phone has been tapped by the police), starts his day by calling Sam, a user who sells some of Bob's drugs for him to support his habit. During their conversation they discuss Miranda, Bob's girl friend, who will be dropping over to give Sam more drugs and pick up some cash and a rifle Bob had loaned to Sam. Bob also has asked Miranda to go over to his mother's house and get a package out of his mother's basement. Although his mother hates the fact that Bob deals drugs, he has smooth-talked her into allowing him to hide his drugs in the basement of her million dollar mansion.
Shortly thereafter on a cold winter's day, members of the local police swoop in and arrest all of the people that are part of Bob's conspiracy. Four of those arrested are Bob, Sam, Miranda and Bob's Mom. Bob has an agreement with Sam to sell his drugs, Miranda, to deliver his drugs, and his Mother, to store his drugs. Although Miranda and Bob's mom got nothing for their part in the conspiracy, nonetheless, since their actions help Bob, THEY ARE CO-CONSPIRATORS.
Bob is part of a drug ring that has delivered hundreds of pounds of Methamphetamine nation wide in the last 3 years. Every member of the conspiracy, (Mom, Miranda, Sam and others) are charged with a conspiracy. All are looking at twenty years to life in Federal Prison, regardless of their level of complicity. During sentencing the Federal Judge realizes that Sam is a small time dealer, Miranda only made deliveries, "once in a while," and Bob's Mom simply didn't know how to say no. Although he feels sorry for their plight, trapped by the sentencing guidelines, he still must sentence them to 20 plus years in prison because THEY ARE CO-CONSPIRATORS
If you're involved in the drug culture, you may wish to consider that your actions can and very well may have a devastating impact on the people around you. If you have a friend, coworker, or loved one involved in methamphetamine or any other illegal substance, remember what looks like a simple favor can ultimately be the crime of CONSPIRACY.
In my third and final part of this series I will discuss some of the many factors which can make the unthinkable sentences we have discussed even worse.