An Overview of Florida Drug Conspiracy Charges, Laws, Penalties, and Legal Defenses
Drug Conspiracy Charges Defense Lawyers in Florida
Conspiracy is often confused with other offenses like attempt, solicitation, aiding and abetting, or the legal theory of criminal liability known as a joint venture. A conspiracy, in its essential terms, is an agreement between two or more people to commit an unlawful act. Alternatively, a criminal conspiracy can exist when two or more people agree to achieve a lawful end by unlawful means. Regarding conspiracies involving drug crimes, the parties agree to perform an act that violates Florida’s drug laws. However, the parties must agree to conspire to commit the same act, rather than separate acts, to form a conspiracy.
The government, represented by the state attorney’s office in Florida, must prove each component or element of conspiracy beyond a reasonable doubt. Section 777.04(3) of the Florida Statutes establishes the crime of conspiracy as anyone who agrees, confederates, combines, or conspires with another person to commit any crime prohibited by Florida law is guilty of a conspiracy. The parties who enter the unlawful agreement are referred to as conspirators. The ultimate goal of a conspiracy, called the object of the conspiracy, is illegal on its face or unlawful because it an otherwise lawful action was achieved through unlawful means.
The Florida Standard Criminal Jury Instructions, §5.3 Criminal Conspiracy, help identify the two elements of the charge the government is obligated to prove to find a conspirator guilty. First, the government must prove that the accused harbored the specific intent that the object of the conspiracy should be completed. Secondly, the government must prove the intent of the accused, and the prosecutor must prove that the accused conspired, confederated, agreed, or combined with at least one other person to cause the object of the conspiracy to be committed. The crime could be committed by a member of the conspiracy, or by another person not embroiled in the conspiracy.
There are no magic words that the people involved must utter to create a conspiracy. Indeed, no words need to be spoken; the manifestation of the criminal intent of the conspirators could be shown through the actions of the parties instead of words.
Some states require proof that the person facing trial for conspiracy somehow acted in furtherance of the conspiracy to be guilty. The state of Florida does not require the prosecution to prove that accused someone worked toward completing the object of the conspiracy, to be convicted of conspiracy.
Section 777.04(5) codifies the common law of withdrawal as a complete defense to conspiracy. The accused must completely and voluntarily renounce participation in the conspiracy. Additionally, the person who renounces participation in the conspiracy abandon the attempt to commit a crime or prevent the commission of the crime, or persuaded other people involved in the conspiracy to renounce their participation in the crime.
According to the jury instructions on conspiracy, the defendant has the burden to prove that he or she renounced participation in the conspiracy by a preponderance of the evidence. However, attempts to renounce participation in the conspiracy are ineffective if the criminal object of the conspiracy was not completed due to unforeseen circumstances, resistance, postponement, or under the circumstances indicating the reason the conspiracy ended was an increased risk of apprehension rather than a voluntary abdication of the criminal enterprise.
Renunciation is complete when the person takes steps to stop the crime from happening. Like the creation of a conspiracy, there are no magic words a withdrawing conspirator must utter. However, the intent of the person renouncing the conspiracy may be shown through overt actions under the circumstances indicating that the person is withdrawing from the conspiracy.
Florida law does not punish conspirators as harshly as principals, or the people involved in committing the crime. Generally speaking, the punishment for conspiracy is one-rung lower than the punishment for a completed crime. Conspiracy to commit murder is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison, even though murder could be a capital crime. A conviction for a conspiracy to commit an offense that is either a life felony or a first-degree felony will be punished as a second-degree felony, which carries a maximum sentence of fifteen years in prison. Conspiracies that have as the object of the conspiracy a second-degree felony, burglary in the third-degree, or any other third-degree felony ranked in severity between three and ten is a third-degree felony with a maximum Florida state prison sentence of up to five years in state prison. Any conspiracy which has a third-degree felony as the object ranked in categories one or two on the Florida sentencing guidelines is a first-degree misdemeanor. The maximum sentence for a first-degree misdemeanor is one year committed to the county jail.
Florida law recognizes conspiracy charges for misdemeanor offenses as well. The maximum penalty for a conspiracy whose object is a first-degree misdemeanor, or a second-degree misdemeanor, will be punished as a second-degree misdemeanor.
Federal prosecutors use the federal drug conspiracy act to dismantle drug enterprises, especially when acquiring enough evidence to prove distribution or possession with intent to distribute or another serious drug crime is difficult or impossible to uncover. The upshot of the federal conspiracy laws, found at 21 United States Code §846, relates to an easing of the prosecution’s burden. The prosecution in a federal conspiracy case has no obligation to prove the roles of the people involved. Instead, the prosecution need only prove that accused was a willing participant in the conspiracy. The punishment for conspiracy, as well as attempt under 21 U.S.C. §846 is the same as the punishment for the completed crime.
Conspirators are liable for one another’s crimes committed in furtherance of the conspiracy. They are also liable to each other for the statements they make. Typically, any statement made in furtherance of a conspiracy uttered by one person involved in a conspiracy can be used in the prosecution of other conspirators. In the context of a drug case, if three people are captured in a wiretap sting discussing plans to traffic in narcotics, the statements made by those three people could be used to prove the guilt of a fourth person at trial.
Musca Law: Aggressive State and Federal Defense for Conspiracy to Commit Drug Crimes in Florida
Anyone “caught on a wire” or otherwise embroiled in a conspiracy to distribute narcotics needs experienced, aggressive, and skilled drug conspiracy defense attorneys to protect their rights. Innocent people are picked up in wiretaps and charged with crimes even when they are not involved. Also, authorities fail to recognize when a person withdraws from a conspiracy and charges them in any event. Call our experienced and knowledgeable drug conspiracy defense lawyers today at 888-484-5057 to mount a vigorous defense.