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Case Basics
Docket No. 
United States
(Argued the cause for the respondents)
(Argued the cause for the petitioner)
Facts of the Case 

In 1997, police stopped a truck in Nevada and seized the illegal drugs that it was carrying. With the help of the truck drivers, the police set up a sting. Francisco Jimenez Recio and Adrian Lopez-Meza came for the truck and were subsequently arrested. A jury convicted Jimenez Recio and Lopez-Meza of conspiracy, but the trial judge ordered a new trial under Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals precedent that held a conspiracy terminates when "'there is affirmative evidence of...defeat of the object of the conspiracy.'" In other words, the federal government could not prosecute the drug conspiracy defendants unless they had joined the conspiracy before the government seized the drugs. The new jury convicted the two men once again. In reversing, the Ninth Circuit held that the evidence presented at the second trial was insufficient to show that Jimenez Recio and Lopez-Meza had joined the conspiracy before the drug seizure.


Is the Ninth Circuit rule -- that a conspiracy ends automatically when the object of the conspiracy becomes impossible to achieve -- valid?

Decision: 8 votes for United States, 1 vote(s) against
Legal provision:

No. In a 9-0 opinion delivered by Justice Stephen G. Breyer, the Court held that a conspiracy does not automatically terminate simply because the federal government has defeated its object, such that Ninth Circuit's conspiracy- termination law is erroneous. Justice Breyer stated that the Ninth Circuit's rule is inconsistent with basic conspiracy law and that the agreement to commit an unlawful act is "'a distinct evil,'" which "'may exist and be punished whether or not the substantive crime ensues.'" Justice John Paul Stevens filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part.

Cite this Page
UNITED STATES v. RECIO. The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 25 August 2015. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2002/2002_01_1184>.
UNITED STATES v. RECIO, The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2002/2002_01_1184 (last visited August 25, 2015).
"UNITED STATES v. RECIO," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed August 25, 2015, http://www.oyez.org/cases/2000-2009/2002/2002_01_1184.