“Conspiracy” is one of those legal terms that’s often thrown around and of which many people are at lease vaguely aware, but relatively few actually understand. Generally, the law defines a conspiracy as an agreement between two or more persons to commit a criminal act. In Hampton v State, the state’s Fifth District Court of Appeals explains the basic requirements of a conspiracy charge as they apply to alleged drug trafficking.
Mr. Hampton was charged with conspiracy to traffic in cocaine after a police officer in Sanford learned that he was operating as a low-level drug dealer in the area. The officer first became aware of a supplier named Crichlow and later caught on to Hampton’s alleged dealings after a wiretap revealed several conversations between Crichlow and Hampton in which they allegedly referred to drug transactions using code words. Crichlow testified against Hampton during trial, including by explaining the meaning of these code words and saying that he regularly sold up to five ounces of cocaine to Hampton. A jury later found Hampton guilty.
On appeal, Hampton argued that he should have been acquitted of the conspiracy charge because there was no evidence that he and Crichlow actually agreed to commit the same criminal act. In Davis v. State, the Fifth District overturned a similar cocaine trafficking conspiracy conviction, holding that the state failed to prove that there was an “agreement between the defendant and any person to commit the same act of selling, purchasing, delivering, or possessing cocaine.” In that case, the court said there was only evidence that the defendant had agreed to buy cocaine from an associate and that the associate agreed to sell it to him. The buying and selling were not the same criminal act, according to the court’s opinion.
This time around, however, the Court said that it interpreted the cocaine trafficking conspiracy law too narrowly in Davis. Section 893.135(1), Florida Statutes, defines cocaine trafficking as the selling, purchasing, manufacturing delivering or bringing into the state – or the possession of within the state – of 28 grams to 150 kilograms of the drug. Meanwhile, trafficking conspiracy occurs when “any . . . agrees, conspires, combines, or confederates with another person to commit any act prohibited by section 893.135(1).”
The Court said the term “any act” should be read more broadly to reflect the nature of trafficking transactions. “Often, members of a conspiracy play different roles, and, in drug trafficking cases, the conspiracy might involve the manufacture, transportation, storage, sale, or purchase of the drugs,” the Court explained. In other words, the Court said the State need only prove that two or more people agreed to commit any trafficking act – buying, selling, etc. – and not necessarily the same act.
If you’re facing drug possession or trafficking charges, you are well-advised to seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense attorney who help you mount the strongest possible defense. The South Florida drug trafficking defense attorneys at Anidjar & Levine are dedicated to providing our clients with aggressive, competent and high-quality representation. We are prepared to defend your rights and help achieve the best outcome possible.
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