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Drug Conspiracies

NCJ Number
FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin Volume: 68 Issue: 6 Dated: June 1999 Pages: 26-32
E M Hendrie
Date Published
7 pages
Drug trafficking usually involves an agreement between two or more people to cooperate in the illegal drug enterprise; one effective way to address the drug trafficking problem is through the conspiracy laws.
Illegal drug trafficking commonly involves the agreement of several people working in concert to manufacture and distribute drugs. In order to best counter drug trafficking, police and prosecutors must recognize and properly charge drug conspiracies. Under most conspiracy laws, there must be at least two suspects who have criminal intent entering into an agreement in order for that agreement to be a conspiracy; however, increasingly States are enacting unilateral conspiracy laws that allow a suspect to be charged with conspiracy if the suspect agrees with an informant or undercover agent to commit a crime, even though the agent or informant does not have the intent to commit a crime. Drug traffickers can be charged and convicted of conspiracy even though they have not completed the drug crime they agreed to commit. As a general rule, individuals can be charged and convicted of both conspiracy and the completed crime that they agreed to commit. There is, however, an exception to this general rule. The exception, known as Wharton's Rule, provides that a conspiracy cannot be charged if the commission of the substantive offense requires concert of action between two people; however, if an additional party who is not necessary for the commission of the offense is involved in the transaction, then the rule will not preclude a conspiracy charge. In order to prove a conspiracy, it is not necessary to have direct evidence from a witness who was present and actually heard the criminal agreement. A conspiracy can be established through circumstantial evidence. A key fact in determining whether a single drug transaction is an isolated purchase or part of a conspiracy to distribute illegal drugs is the quantity of the drugs involved in the transaction. The larger the quantity of drugs, the more reasonable it is to infer that the transaction is part of a larger conspiracy. In many jurisdictions, a person who is a member of a conspiracy is vicariously guilty of any reasonably foreseeable crimes committed by the members of the conspiracy, even though those crimes were not part of the agreed upon plan. 37 notes