Please see: An Overview of Drug Crime Defenses in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
What it Takes to Prove a Conspiracy
Conspiracy is an agreement to accomplish a criminal offense, or to accomplish a lawful objective by criminal means. Conpiracy to 'violate the drug laws' is the Commonwealth's way of alleging a conspiracy without having to specify exactly what the goal of teh conspiracy was.
Proving an agreement is a funny business. People do not ordinarily talk about their agreements, which is why the Commonwealth ordinarily attempts to prove an agreement by showing what people did or said and then arguing that the only logical inference is that they were conspiring towards a criminal goal.
To gather this evidence the police usually conduct surveillance of one kind or another -- either of a person they suspect of selling drugs, or of a place where the Commonwealth believes drugs are regularly sold. You are entitled to see the surveillance and challenge the legality of the manner in which it was collected.
Defending the Charge of Conspiracy
It is essential to know exactly what evidence the police have, and to review all of it carefully for a number of reasons.
First, the Commonwealth will, ordinarily, attempt to introduce all of it at trial, hoping that either one discrete act or statement, or the sheer volume of evidence, will be enough to convince a jury. At the same time, there is often evidence collected by the Commonwealth that works against its case. There may be evidence uncovered during surveillance that shows actions inconsistent with an agreement between the parties, or that makes it more logical that the Commonwealth only has part of the story right.
Second, in addition to building up a defense, there are ways of tearing down the Commonwealth's case. If there was a search warrant involved, there are clear rules regarding when and how police may obtain or use it. In Massachusetts, when a warrant is improperly executed, the evidence uncovered is inadmissible. The same evidence collected by the police to be used against you, can be used to show that the warrant or the surveillance was done in violation of the law or constitution, which can be used to get evidence against you excluded.
Finally, one strategy when building a defense in a conspiracy case, is to make your case based on the same evidence the Commonwealth is going to offer, even if the story it shows is slanted or mistaken. That way, you can put your defense on through the testimony of the Commonwealth's witnesses. At the end of the trial, you don't have to ask the jurors to believe that all the Commonwealth's witnesses were lying, just that they were ill informed, misled, and mistaken in some small way about what was going on, and that their small mistake snowballed into a larger misunderstanding that ultimately ensnared someone who was not involved with any drug conspiracy.
Penalty Based on the Underlying Offense
The penalty for conspiracy to violate the drug laws depends on the object of the conspiracy, but includes a one year suspension of your drivers license.