Prosecutors have a veritable arsenal of legal tricks up their sleeves to deploy against defendants in criminal cases. Just last week we discussed the case of an elderly pharmacist in New Jersey charged with conspiracy in connection with an alleged prescription drug trafficking ring. Our Morristown readers may have read this and wondered just what the charge means. Is it any different than charges for drug possession or drug distribution?
The answer is yes, conspiracy is a unique charge. It began to emerge as a prosecutorial strategy in response to organized crime in America back during prohibition. The problem faced by law enforcement was that alleged drug trafficking networks were not only vast, but they were segmented into other illicit activities in which they were involved. That is to say, some cartel members might be in charge of gambling; others, prostitution; still others, money laundering.
Because those are all relatively small-time charges, prosecutors felt they needed some additional leverage with these defendants. This is how the charge of conspiracy came to be. In a conspiracy, you are accused of helping someone else commit a crime as opposed to actually committing the crime. This meant that prosecutors could elicit testimony from accused drug runners themselves and build a conspiracy case against the alleged “higher-ups” in the organization, even though they probably did little if any actual drug distribution themselves.
In fact, it’s not even necessary that a crime take place in order to be charged with conspiracy. All prosecutors have to do is prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you helped to plan a crime.
Morristown residents facing such charges are likely to feel shocked and overwhelmed at what is happening to them. And while this blog post should not be taken as specific legal advice, it should ultimately remind readers that the burden of proof is on the prosecution. A legal defense professional can help formulate a strategy against this unique and serious type of criminal charge.