Supreme Court resolves circuit split on proof of withdrawal from conspiracy: Smith v US

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court held that the burden of proving withdrawal from a criminal conspiracy rests with the defendant, even when the defendant’s withdrawal occurs outside of the statute of limitations period and thus would be a complete defence to prosecution.

The court’s unanimous decision resolves a split among the circuit courts on the issue. Although the underlying facts in Smith related to a drug trafficking conspiracy, the decision has antitrust implications because withdrawal is also an affirmative defence to a charge of conspiracy under Section 1 of the Sherman Act.

The defendant in Smith was charged with conspiracy based on his involvement in an illegal drug business. At trial, Smith argued that the conspiracy charges were barred by the five-year statute of limitations because he had been imprisoned on an unrelated offence for the past six years. The trial judge instructed the jury to convict Smith of the conspiracy count if the government had proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Smith was a member of the conspiracy and the conspiracy continued within the statute of limitations period. The jury convicted Smith, finding that he failed to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he withdrew from the conspiracy before the limitations period began. The DC Circuit Court affirmed the instruction and conviction…

If you are registered and logged in to the site, click on the link below to read the rest of the Allen & Overy briefing. If not, please register or sign in with your details below.

Analysis from The Lawyer

  • Panel reviews

    Panel reviews 2014: The chosen ones

    Which firms are cutting it in this era of slimline rosters, and who are the GC new brooms making clean sweeps? The Lawyer can reveal all

  • training

    Accutrainee: Revolution postponed

    At the time of its launch Accutrainee was described as a revolutionary change to the training model. Has it proved to be so? Not really.

View more analysis from The Lawyer


One Bishops Square
E1 6AD

Turnover (£m): 1,189.00
No. of lawyers: 2,304
Jurisdiction: UK
No. of offices: 11
No. of qualified lawyers: 273