Washington Criminal Drug Laws | Conspiracy Charges | A Criminal Defense Attorney | Lawyer’s Perspective on Illegal Drugs, Controlled Substance and VUCSAs.
Conspiracy- what is it and how does it apply?
When you ask what a conspiracy is, most people would respond it is some combination of 2 or more persons gathered for some sort of unlawful plot or plan and, it is a bad thing. Ironically, from a criminal defense lawyer | attorney’s prospective, especially in the criminal drug offense arena and VUCSA charges, we see conspiracy charges as a positive thing when someone is facing a drug possession or drug related charge. Why? It generally means less time and these types of charges often make it more difficult for the prosecuting attorney to prove their case.
Most people have no real idea what a conspiracy charge is unless they have been or currently are involved in the criminal justice system. In Washington, the primary benefit to this type of charge in illegal drug, controlled substance and VUCSA cases is it generally carries significantly less jail time than the underlying standard felony drug charge one is charged with “conspiring” to have committed because in the State of Washington, conspiracy is a “legal term of art”. Charging someone with conspiracy to commit a crime means that instead of facing the time and punishment of the crime, with some exceptions, the potential punishment you are facing is dropped an entire level. In practice, this means a Class A felony gets dropped to a Class B Felony, a Class B gets dropped to a Class C, and a Class C felony gets dropped to a unranked felony. These kinds of reductions can produce significant reductions out of the gates on a criminal charge.
So What Does a Conspiracy Mean?
From a courtroom oriented criminal defense attorney | lawyer’s prospective, the Washington Pattern Jury Instructions, WPICs, is the best place to look to define conspiracy. Generally speaking it is when one or more persons agree to engage in or cause the performance of conduct constituting a crime. This agreement was done with the intent to perform such conduct and one of the individuals took a substantial step in pursuance of the agreement. Read the link to the Washington Pattern Jury Instruction above: is the simplest way to explain conspiracy as it is written to be understood by non lawyers ie. juries.
That being said, under the drug offense statute, RCW 69.50.407, the Revised Code of Washington defines conspiracy in a way that does not require proof of a substantial step. See State v. Casarez-Gastelum, 48 Wn.App. 112, 738 P.2d 303 (1987); see generally Fine and Ende, 13A Washington Practice: Criminal Law With Sentencing Forms § 907 (2d ed.). Explaining the impact of this is something that needs to be done in person but the point is this type of charge has a number of legal twists you and your lawyer should be aware of.
Other Thoughts on Conspiracy
Under Washington Law, a down side is even if someone did not carry or use a deadly weapon or firearm, if they are charged with conspiracy, the firearm or deadly weapon enhancement can be applied to all members of the conspiracy. This can be a major problem as this enhancement can be terrible.
People are surprised to find out that they can be charged with conspiracy even if the other parties involved are not charged, are not around or have been acquitted of the crime.
Additionally, people are also surprised to find out that they can be charged with conspiracy based solely on circumstantial evidence; however, they cannot be convicted unless the prosecuting attorney shows agreement … unilateral negotiation or agreement is not enough. You should speak with your criminal defense attorney if this is an issue.
You need a legal team of seasoned criminal defense lawyers | attorneys who have the expertise necessary to understand conspiracy charges. Before you speak with an investigating officer, or make any decisions surrounding these kinds of charges, talk to a lawyer.
Our lawyers know criminal cases are rarely as simple as the police reports claim and our clients hire us because they want staunch and effective counsel who takes the time to make sure their clients’ rights are protected. Whether our role is as legal counsel, negotiator, or litigator, we have years of experience fighting and resolving cases with our clients’ best interests in mind. Call 206-708-7852 or email to set an appointment. All lawyers are not the same.