United States v. Shabani

The Facts

Defendant allegedly was member of conspiracy to distribute cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C.S. § 846.

Procedural History

At trial, defendant raised the issue and asked the court to instruct the jury that proof of an overt act was required for conviction. The judge rejected defendant’s proposed jury instruction, and the jury convicted defendant. The court of appeals reversed, and held that petitioner government must prove at trial that defendant committed an overt act in furtherance of a narcotics conspiracy. The US Supreme Court reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals dismiss the initial trial court’s conviction.

Rule

General common law sounds: conspiracy does not make any wrongdoing or malfeasance other than the act of conspiring a condition of liability for conspiracy. However, to establish a violation of 21 U.S.C.S. § 846, the Government need not prove the commission of any overt act in furtherance of the criminal conspiracy.

The Issue

Whether petitioner, the US, must prove at trial that defendant committed an overt act in furtherance of a narcotics conspiracy in order to establish a violation of 21 U.S.C.S. § 846.

The Holding/Reasoning

The US Supreme Court stated that the mere malicious thought cannot prove the existence of criminal conspiracy. The court referred to general concept of the crime that concluding the criminal agreement itself ought to be regarded as actus reus because. “Conspiracy is an inchoate offense, the essence of which is an agreement to commit an unlawful act”. Thus, according to the decision of the highest court there is no need to prove committing of overt acts.

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