July 18, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Mere Buyer-Seller Relationship Does Not Constitute Drug Distribution Conspiracy

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People v. Lucero on Thursday, July 14, 2016.

Rose Lucero’s coworker had prescriptions for several types of medications, including Tylenol with codeine. Ms. Lucero would occasionally request medications from the coworker, and would be given one pill for personal use for no compensation. The prosecution charged Ms. Lucero with conspiring with her coworker to distribute codeine and two counts of inducing her coworker to distribute the same substance. All of the charged offenses were class 4 felonies. At trial, the court granted Ms. Lucero’s motion for judgment of acquittal on the inducement counts but not the conspiracy count. The jury convicted Ms. Lucero of conspiracy and she was sentenced to one year of probation.

Ms. Lucero appealed her conviction, arguing that the prosecution produced insufficient evidence to prove that she conspired with her coworker. Ms. Lucero relied on the principle that evidence of a buyer-seller relationship, without more, does not constitute a conspiracy to distribute drugs. The court of appeals agreed with Ms. Lucero. The court of appeals held that the Colorado conspiracy statute exists to punish conspirators who have agreed on a common illicit purpose. The court held that such a conspiracy was not present in Ms. Lucero’s case, where she asked for painkillers for personal use and did not distribute them further. The court also held that by finding a conspiracy, the lower court contravened the General Assembly’s intent to punish conspiracy more heavily than simple possession.

The court of appeals vacated Ms. Lucero’s conviction and remanded for entry of judgment of acquittal.

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