[ Breyer ]
[ Stevens ]
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U.S. 321, 337.
UNITED STATES v. JIMENEZ RECIO et al.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE NINTH CIRCUIT
Ninth Circuit precedent states that a conspiracy terminates when
Held: A conspiracy does not automatically terminate simply because the Government has defeated its object. Thus, the Ninth Circuit is incorrect in its view that a conspiracy ends through defeat when the Government intervenes, making the conspiracys goals impossible to achieve, even if the conspirators do not know that the Government has intervened and are totally unaware that the conspiracy is bound to fail. First, the Ninth Circuits rule is inconsistent with basic conspiracy law. The agreement to commit an unlawful act is a distinct evil, which may exist and be punished whether or not the substantive crime ensues. Salinas v. United States, 522 U.S. 52, 65. The conspiracy poses a threat to the public over and above the threat of the substantive crimes commissionboth because the [c]ombination in crime makes more likely the commission of [other] crimes and because it decreases the probability that the individuals involved will depart from their path of criminality. E.g., Callanan v. United States, 364 U.S. 587, 593594. Where police have frustrated a conspiracys specific objective but conspirators (unaware of that fact) have neither abandoned the conspiracy nor withdrawn, these special conspiracy-related dangers remain, as does the conspiracys essencethe agreement to commit the crime. Second, this Courts view is that of almost all courts and commentators but for the Ninth Circuit. No other Federal Court of Appeals has adopted the Ninth Circuits rule, and three have explicitly rejected it. The Cruz majority argued that the traditional rule threatened endless potential liability. But the majoritys example illustrating that pointa sting in which police instructed an arrested conspirator to call all of his acquaintances to come and help him, with the Government obtaining convictions of those who did sodraws its persuasive force from the fact that it bears certain resemblances to entrapment, which the law independently forbids. At the same time, the Cruz rule would reach well beyond arguable police misbehavior, potentially threatening the use of properly run law enforcement sting operations. See Lewis v. United States, 385 U.S. 206, 208209. Ninth Circuit precedent, whereby the language the defendant defeated its purpose in United States v. Krasn, 614 F.2d 1229, 1236, was changed to a conspiracy is presumed to continue until there is defeat of the [conspiracys purpose] in United States v. Bloch, 696 F.2d 1213, 1215 (emphasis added), may help to explain the Cruz rules origin. But, since the Ninth Circuits earlier cases nowhere give any reason for the critical language change, they cannot help to justify it. Pp. 37.
258 F.3d 1069, reversed and remanded.
Breyer, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Rehnquist, C. J., and OConnor, Scalia, Kennedy, Souter, Ginsburg, and Thomas, JJ.