How to Fight Drug Conspiracy Charges in North Dakota

A breakdown of the four types, the penalties, and how to defend against them

By Super Lawyers staff | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on May 16, 2023

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A “conspiracy,” at least in legal terms, refers to any agreement between two or more people to commit a crime.

In many cases, a person may be guilty of conspiracy even if they did not directly participate in the underlying crime. For example, if a person provides assistance to someone selling cocaine, they can be charged with conspiracy—even if they did not personally handle any of the drugs.

Under federal drug laws, there are four types of drug crimes that may lead to conspiracy charges: manufacturing, distribution, possession with intent to distribute, and importation.

Here is a brief overview of what each drug offense covers.


A person “manufactures” drugs if they participate in any stage of the “production, preparation, propagation, compounding, or processing” of a controlled substance. Obviously, this would cover something as direct as, say, cooking methamphetamine in a lab. But a person can also conspire to manufacture drugs if they do something as simple as place samples in a plastic baggie for distribution.


To distribute a drug means to “deliver it to someone else. It is not necessary for the person making the delivery to receive anything in exchange for the drugs—meaning, a person may participate in a drug conspiracy simply by acting as the delivery person for the actual parties to the transaction.

Possession with Intent to Distribute

State laws and federal laws distinguish between “simple” possession and possession with “intent to distribute.” And the difference largely rests on the amount of drugs found on the defendant. If local police in North Dakota arrest you with a joint in your pocket, that would most likely be charged as misdemeanor possession under. But if they find a five-pound brick of marijuana in your car, the law assumes that was not for your personal use, but, rather, that you were planning to distribute it as part of a drug conspiracy.


Importation refers to bringing illegal drugs into the United States from another country. The most common example of importation is a person trying to sneak drugs across the borders with Canada or Mexico.

How Do You Defend Drug Conspiracy Cases?

The actual penalties for drug conspiracy will vary based on a number of factors. For example, under North Dakota’s Controlled Substances Act, criminal charges range from a Class B Misdemeanor up to felony charges depending on factors such as the substance’s classification (Schedule I, Schedule II, Schedule III, Schedule IV, Schedule V), the amount in possession, and whether there are any previous offenses.

For most drug conspiracy criminal cases, the maximum sentence a person can face on each charge is up to 20 years in prison. And it is important to remember that a person may be convicted of conspiracy even if law enforcement did not find them in possession of any drugs.

Defending against drug conspiracy charges is often difficult, as the prosecution need only prove the defendant entered into an “agreement” with some other member of the conspiracy. That said, there are several defenses that may be available depending on the facts of the case, such as lack of knowledge, duress, or entrapment. A qualified North Dakota criminal defense lawyer can advise you further on these matters.

For more information on this area of law, see our overview of drug and alcohol violations.

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