Drug Conspiracy Elements

A drug conspiracy have two central requirements:

  1. two or more persons agreed to commit the crimes of either: (a) drug distribution or (b) drug possession with the intent to distribute;  AND
  2. the person knowingly and voluntarily joined the conspiracy intending to help advance or achieve its goal.


In regard to an agreement, the government must prove that there was a mutual understanding between two or more persons to work together in order to achieve their criminal goal (i.e. distributing drugs). Importantly the agreement does not have to be formal or in writing, or even that everyone involved in the conspiracy agreed on all of the details for it to be valid.  But, the fact that people met on a regular basis, discussed common interests, or engaged in similar conduct, alone, is not enough.  Certain factors such as the relationship between the parties, representations made to third-parties regarding the conspiracy and negotiations to further the conspiracy are relevant to show a conspiracy exists.

Joining Knowingly and Voluntarily

To show that a person “knowingly and voluntarily” joined the conspiracy, the government must prove that he knew the conspiracy’s main purpose and freely joined it intending to advance its goals.  This does not require proof that the person knew everything about the conspiracy or the he knew everyone involved.  It does not even require that the person be a member of the conspiracy from the beginning.  Meaning a person could join a conspiracy toward the end and will still be criminally responsible for all of the crimes committed before he joined.  It is not enough, however, to show that a person simply knew about the conspiracy, was associated with some of its members, or even that he approved with what was happening and did not object.

What if I am a regular buyer? Can I be considered a co-conspirator?

Generally, proof of a buyer-seller relationship without more is not enough to tie the buyer to the larger drug conspiracy.  As simple as this sounds — it’s not.  There are many factors that go into this determination including:

  • the number of transactions (drug sales);
  • the amount of drugs purchased;
  • intended use of the purchased drugs (resale or personal use);
  • whether or not the buyer knew of the seller’s drug distribution conspiracy;
  • other factors specific to the circumstances of each individual case.

It is important to understand that just because a person establishes the existence of a buyer-seller relationship that you will be relieved of criminal liability.  In other words, that the criminal charges against you will be dismissed.  Put simply, this is a question of fact for the jury to decide at trial.  The caveat is that you are not entitled to this instruction in every case.  This is considered a theory of defense, so it will be your burden to establish that you are entitled to the instruction.  If the judge agrees then he will instruct the jury accordingly.  Next, the jury will discuss the facts of your case and ultimately decide whether they believe that you are a co-conspirator or a regular buyer.

You need experienced representation.

Drug conspiracies carry a very wide-sweeping net.  Even if you played a very minor role in the conspiracy, you will be held responsible for all of the criminal wrongs committed by the conspiracy as a whole.  This can carry a hefty prison sentence and even subject you to mandatory minimum sentences.  If you were just a regular buyer and not a co-conspirator, you will have to prove it in court. This will mean a long and hard fought legal battle, culminating in a jury trial.

The attorneys at Sieben & Cotter have handled these types of cases with proven success.  Call Sieben & Cotter at 651-455-1555 to arrange your free and comprehensive consultation, or send a request for more information.

The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from Sieben & Cotter, PLLC, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this Post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.