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Drug Conspiracy Crimes

Drug conspiracy charges often cast a wide net by targeting people who never bought or sold any type of controlled substance. In some cases, the accusation is based on a brief conversation or legitimate business dealing between the main target of the investigation and another person. If the net is cast too wide, even a regular person can be falsely accused of this serious criminal offense.

As Eric Sterling, the legal counsel for the US House Committee on the Judiciary that drafted the federal conspiracy law explained: 

If a defendant is simply the doorman at a crack house, he is liable for all the crack ever sold from that crack house -- indeed, he is liable for all of the crack ever sold by the organization that runs the crack house.

In many circumstances, the actions by the defendant do not have to support the completion of the act. Instead, the prosecution will focus on proving a mental “intent” to commit a crime often through circumstantial evidence or accusations by co-defendants. The person accused can be the victim of lies told by the co-defendants who provide "substantial assistance" by making a false allegation in order to shorten their own sentence.

The person accused of conspiring to commit a drug crime can be the victim of lies told by the co-defendants. The co-defendants might tell those lies during the course of providing "substantial assistance" in order to shorten their own sentence.


Attorney for Drug Conspiracy Charges in Des Moines, Iowa

Contact a criminal defense attorney at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. in Des Moines, Iowa, to discuss your case, the best way to aggressively fight the criminal charges, and ways to avoid the typical penalties imposed in these types of cases. We also represent clients who are subjected to a search of their home or business in response to a search warrant issued in a drug case involving a conspiracy.

The experienced criminal defense attorney at McCarthy & Hamrock, P.C. represent clients in a wide range of drug crime cases in both state and federal court. We represent clients after an arrest in the City of Des Moines or the surrounding areas of West Des Moines, Windsor Heights, Waukee, Urbandale, Pleasant Hill, Norwalk, Johnston, Grimes, Clive, Carlisle, Bondurant, Ankeny, or Altoona.

If you are the subject of a narcotics investigation in the greater Des Moines area including Polk County, Dallas County, Warren County, Madison County, Jasper County and Marion County, then contact us for a consultation.

Let us put our experience to work for you. Call (515) 279-9700 to schedule a confidential consultation.


Elements of Iowa's Drug Conspiracy Crimes

Drug conspiracy charges can be filed in state or federal court.

Under state law, Iowa Code section 124.401(1) makes it a crime “for any person to manufacture, deliver, or possess with the intent to manufacture or deliver, a controlled substance ... or conspire with one or more other persons to manufacture, deliver, or possess with the intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance....”

Iowa Code section 706.1 defines the elements that must be proven at trial for the crime of conspiracy:

  1. A person commits conspiracy with another if, with the intent to promote or facilitate the commission of a crime which is an aggravated misdemeanor or felony, the person does either of the following:
    • Agrees with another that they or one or more of them will engage in conduct constituting the crime or an attempt or solicitation to commit the crime.
    • Agrees to aid another in the planning or commission of the crime or of an attempt or solicitation to commit the crime.
  2. It is not necessary for the conspirator to know the identity of each and every conspirator.
  3. A person shall not be convicted of conspiracy unless it is alleged and proven that at least one conspirator committed an overt act evidencing a design to accomplish the purpose of the conspiracy by criminal means.
  4. A person shall not be convicted of conspiracy if the only other person or persons involved in the conspiracy were acting at the behest of or as agents of a law enforcement agency in an investigation of the criminal activity alleged at the time of the formation of the conspiracy.

Therefore, in order to prove that a defendant conspired to commit a drug crime under Iowa law, the prosecutor must prove the following:

  1. The defendant agreed with another that one or both of them would commit a drug crime;
  2. The defendant entered into such an agreement with the intent to promote or facilitate the crime;
  3. The Defendant committed an overt act to accomplish the drug crime; and
  4. The alleged co-conspirator, was not a law enforcement agent or assisting law enforcement when the conspiracy began.

An Agreement to Form a Conspiracy

One of the most contested issued in these drug conspiracy cases is whether the State presented sufficient evidence on the "agreement" element of the offense. Prior court decisions in Iowa have described an agreement to form a conspiracy as:

Both direct and circumstantial evidence may be used to prove such a meeting of the minds. Circumstantial evidence includes the declarations and conduct of the alleged conspirators and all reasonable inferences arising from such evidence.

The agreement does not necessarily need to be, and often it is not, formal and express. Instead, a tacit understanding can be sufficient to sustain a conspiracy conviction in some cases.


Admission as a Statement in Furtherance of a Conspiracy

One common issue in drug conspiracy cases in the state of Iowa is whether certain statements are admissible. Iowa Rule of Evidence 5.801(d)(2)(E) provides that “a statement by a coconspirator of a party during the course and in furtherance of the conspiracy” is not hearsay, although it may be inadmissible for other reasons.

For purposes of this rule of evidence, the term "conspiracy" is defined as “a combination or agreement between two or more persons to do or accomplish a criminal or unlawful act, or to do a lawful act in an unlawful manner.” State v. Tonelli, 749 N.W.2d 689, 692 (Iowa 2008) (quoting State v. Ross, 573 N.W.2d 906, 914 (Iowa 1998)).

A conspiracy must be established by a preponderance of the evidence. State v. Tangie, 616 N.W.2d 564, 569 (Iowa 2000). When a trial court makes a determination on the question of whether a conspiracy exists, the appellate court will review the trial court's determination for substantial evidence. In re Prop. Seized from DeCamp, 511 N.W.2d 616, 621 (Iowa 1994). 


This article was last updated on Friday, July 14, 2017.

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