Maryland Court Throws Out Drug Convictions When State Asserted Multiple Charges Based on One Conspiracy

gavel and booksOne of the things about which people on trial must concern themselves is being overcharged by the prosecution. That’s what happened to one inmate charged with multiple crimes for his part in bringing marijuana into a jail. Since the state only had proof of one agreement to move the drugs, the man could be guilty of only one conspiracy. The man’s conviction on two drug conspiracy charges led the Court of Special Appeals to vacate one of those convictions.

Allegedly, there was a marijuana pipeline at a correctional center in Prince George’s County. The state claimed that the activity took place in the following order. First, an inmate sent his ex-girlfriend to pick up some marijuana from an acquaintance. Then, the acquaintance gave the woman the drugs, and she gave the weed to another man. Next, that man took the drugs to the jail and gave them to a corrections officer. After that, the officer delivered the marijuana to the inmate.

From this chain of alleged events, the state brought multiple charges against the inmate. These included:  “(1) possession with intent to distribute marijuana, (2) possession of marijuana, (3) conspiracy to distribute marijuana, (4) conspiracy to deliver marijuana to a person detained in a place of confinement, (5) attempted possession of contraband in a place of confinement, and (6) attempted possession of marijuana in a place of confinement.” The inmate challenged counts five and six as duplicative. The trial judge agreed and threw out count five. The jury found the inmate not guilty on count one. The court merged counts two and three and sentenced the man to 18 months. The court also merged counts four and six and sentenced him to 18 months to run concurrently with the first sentence.

The inmate appealed his convictions, and he achieved success on one of his arguments, which again addressed duplicative convictions. In this instance, he asserted that the state had charged him with (and obtained convictions on) two conspiracy crimes when he was involved with only one conspiracy. The inmate’s argument contended that he, the officer, and the man who had brought the drugs to jail had exactly one conspiratorial relationship and agreement. Convicting him twice for this one conspiracy violated his right to be free of double jeopardy, he argued.

The appellate court agreed. Back in 1989, the U.S. Supreme Court explained that a “single agreement to commit several crimes constitutes one conspiracy. By the same reasoning, multiple agreements to commit separate crimes constitute multiple conspiracies.” In this inmate’s case, there was an absence of evidence pointing to multiple agreements. The state’s evidence at trial lacked anything demonstrating multiple agreements. The prosecution did not argue that there were multiple agreements. “With only one agreement, there can be only one conspiracy. A single conspiracy means that there is only one crime. If there is only one crime, then there can be only one conviction,” the court wrote in ruling for the inmate.

Regardless of other facts, without proof of multiple agreements, the case established only one conspiracy. The multiple conspiracy convictions were a violation of double jeopardy because, when the state convicts a person of two conspiracy crimes based upon conspiracy, it’s the same as convicting him twice of the same crime.

When you or a loved one is on trial, you need skilled counsel on your side to aid you in presenting your defense and ensuring that your constitutional rights are protected. Maryland drug crime attorney Anthony A. Fatemi has been defending the accused for many years. Contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

More blog posts:

Maryland Man’s Conviction Overturned Because Police Conducted Illegal ‘Frisk’ Search, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, Sept. 8, 2016

Maryland Court Upholds Sentence for Conspiracy and Murder Convictions, Maryland Criminal Lawyer Blog, May 6, 2016

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