United States v. Lopez

The Facts

Defendants, Lopez and Guerra-Guala, were illegally distributing large amounts of methamphetamine and cocaine in St. Paul, Minnesota. Lopez acted as the contact person for the conspiracy. He took orders from customers, negotiated the place of delivery, collected the money from customers and distributors as well as trained runners for delivery of drugs. The second defendant was involved in sale and distribution of illegal drugs.

Procedural History

The US Court of Appeals affirmed district court’s judgment.


To determine accused’s role in conspiracy and organized crime following factors are to be considered: (a) nature of participation in a criminal act/activity; (b) nature and scope of the illegal activity; (c) degree of participation in planning particular offense or organizing criminal activity as a whole ; (d) degree of control and authority exercised over other accomplices/co-conspirators; (e) exercise of decision making authority.

The Issue

Whether there was an error in district court’s factual findings regarding aggravating role sentence enhancements and a drug quantity determination, applying preponderance of the evidence standard.

The Holding/Reasoning

The United States Court of Appeals has defined that defendants can be subject to the enhancement under U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual § 3B1. It has construed the terms “manager” and “supervisor” liberally, assuming criminal liability of the perpetrator in this capacity in relation only to one other participant in the criminal conspiracy. “Additionally, the enhancement may apply even if the management activity was limited to a single transaction”.

As to applicability of the rule to the case the US Court of Appeals admitted that “the first defendant was properly found to have been a manager or supervisor, as he acted for a time as the contact person for the conspiracy, taking orders and negotiating the place of delivery”. Court’s view regarding the second defendant was also affirmative of the initial judgment.

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