What is Conspiracy to Distribute?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 04 June 2019
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Conspiracy to distribute is a criminal charge used in some drug trafficking cases where a prosecutor has evidence that two or more people conspired to distribute drugs. This charge can also be applied to other cases involving the distribution of contraband material. Handling of such cases varies by jurisdiction, as do the criteria necessary to receive a conviction. People facing a conspiracy to distribute charge should meet with a criminal attorney, preferably one who specializes in cases of a nature similar to that a person is charged with, to discuss the situation and the various legal options.

For a conspiracy charge, prosecutors must be able to show that two or more people met to plan criminal activity. In some regions, people must commit what is known as an “overt act,” an activity clearly linked to the conspiracy, to be considered guilty. It is important to note that this act does not have to be successful; it simply has to further the stated end goal of the conspiracy. Two people taking turns driving to pick up contraband material from someone else, for example, would be committing an overt act.


Distribution charges include charges against people involved at all levels of drug distribution, including people who import drugs, as well as the sellers they pass the drugs on to. People holding large amounts of drugs are often charged with distribution, rather than possession, under the argument that they couldn't use the drugs on their own, and thus must have been planning to sell or share them.

An important thing to note about conspiracy charges is that people in a conspiracy can often be charged with criminal actions committed by co-defendants in the process of furthering the conspiracy. Someone charged with conspiracy to distribute, for example, could also be charged with murder if an accomplice killed someone in the course of a drug deal gone wrong. Conspiracy charges can be a very effective law enforcement tool for striking to the heart of groups involved in drug manufacture and sales, and the ability to charge everyone involved with like charges is an important component of a conspiracy charge.

There are a number of defenses to a conspiracy to distribute case, depending on the situation. Prosecutors may be willing to offer defendants a deal if they are willing to become witnesses, and in some cases may offer very favorable terms in recognition of the fact that witnesses can face reprisals for cooperating in criminal cases. A lawyer can discuss the options and meet with the prosecution to see what kinds of deals are on the table in a conspiracy to distribute case.


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Post 4

@Simrin-- I don't think so. If someone doesn't know about a conspiracy to distribute drugs and join it knowingly, they cannot be charged with it. There has to be evidence of these two points.

I'm sure if people knew about it and agreed to work with them, they wouldn't admit it at first. But there is always evidence somewhere, in phone conversations, mails and so forth. If there is no evidence, they probably really didn't know about it. There are a lot of people used by conspirators like that.

Post 2

What if people unknowingly take part in a conspiracy?

I heard in the news that there was a group of drug dealers that hired accountants online that worked from home. They had the accountants take care of their accounts, transfer money and manage transactions. The accountants did not know that there was drugs or any other illegal activity involved.

Will they be charged with conspiracy too?

Post 1

As far as I know, the conspiracy to distribute charge is not limited to traffickers. I have read in the newspaper of a case where a doctor and his relatives were distributing prescription medicines illegally. They were also charged with conspiracy to distribute.

If I remember correctly, they were selling different painkillers, probably to prescription drug abusers. They were arrested and charged with ten years in prison.

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