Interpretation Of Criminal Law
Hampton v. State
A conspiracy is defined in law as an agreement between two or more individuals to commit a crime. Although this may seem like a pretty straightforward definition, as with most criminal law, it is up to interpretation. The focus of this post will be to discuss Florida’s Fifth District Court of Appeals interpretation of a conspiracy charge, and how it applies to those accused of drug trafficking. In Hampton v. State, Albert Hampton appeals a guilty verdict of conspiracy to traffic cocaine.
The City County Investigative Bureau of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office found a mid-level supplier of cocaine named Marcel Crichlow. Police were able to tap his phone, which resulted in recordings of Crichlow and Hampton discussing their illicit business, often using code words. With these series of conversations available to police, Hampton was arrested and charged with conspiracy to traffic cocaine. During trial, Crichlow testified against Hampton; claiming up to five ounces of cocaine were sold to Hampton at regular intervals; an explanation as to the meaning of the code words that were used in their conversations was also included in his testimony. The defense’s move for acquittal was denied, and ultimately, Hampton was found guilty by the jury for conspiracy to traffic cocaine.
Hampton argues that the evidence provided by the State was not sufficient to prove the charge of conspiracy to engage in trafficking cocaine. To support his appeal, he cited the Court’s opinion in Davis v. State, in which a similar guilty cocaine trafficking conspiracy verdict was overturned: “ Logic demands that the agreement that constitutes the conspiracy must be an agreement to commit the same criminal offense. In a buy-sell transaction, that agreement usually does not exist because the buyer and seller each intend to commit a different criminal offense.” Therefore, there was not enough evidence to establish a conspiracy charge, because the buyer was not trying to sell, and the dealer was not trying to buy.
With the Court’s opinion in Davis v. State, Hampton argued that he and Crichlow did not talk about or agree to commit to the same criminal act; Hampton only wanted to buy cocaine, and Crichlow only wanted to sell it to him. Therefore, the trial court made an error in denying his motion for judgment of acquittal.
In response, the Fifth District Court of Appeals explained the error in Davis v. State; the Court interpreted “any act” too narrowly, which contradicts the legal definition of a conspiracy. Further, members of a conspiracy more oftenthan not, contribute to the conspiracy as a whole, each playing their part in a large operation, in the context of drug trafficking: production, storage, transportation, sale, and purchase. Therefore, the original trial court properly denied Hampton’s motion for a judgment of acquittal. It was also emphasized that they recede from their original holding in Davis.
If you have been charged or believe you may be charged with any drug crimes including trafficking, you need to seek the advice of an experienced criminal defense attorney. South Florida drug trafficking criminal defense attorney Kenneth Padowitz, aggressively defends those accused of serious crimes. Drug trafficking carries with it stiff penalties. Call us to discuss this very important matter.