Do two people being tried for the same offense get the same sentence if found guilty?

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Do two people being tried for the same offense get the same sentence if found guilty?

A man and woman are on trial for attempting to smuggle illegal drugs into the US. The female was unaware of the situation and what was really going on until the bust occurred. Even though this was the case, the courts didn’t buy it and now both are on trial together as a group. If found guilty, will they both receive the same sentence? What if the man confessed and says the woman is innocent and was unaware of the situation, would this change anything? Lastly, if this couple is up against the Federal government, what are the chances of the couple winning? Is there a standard penalty?

Asked on October 18, 2010 under Criminal Law, California

Answers:

MD, Member, California Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Two people can not only be charged for the same crime but also be both found guilty thereof.  It is usually called a conspiracy or in the circumstance of one being the brains behind the operation, it could be one is the principal and one is the accessory to the crime.  If a man and woman are both on trial for attempting to smuggle illegal drugs into the U.S., that means the items were found in the possession of both (like luggage) and/or the authorities reviewed the surveillance footage and found both were acting suspiciously such to lead to enough probable cause that both were in on the crime.  The courts didn't buy it because most likely the drugs were also found (or traces were found) on the woman's person as well.  They can definitely be tried together but if the defense attorneys try, they might be able to get separate trials for each person.  If the woman is simply an innocent bystander, then her attorney may wish to plea her out or talk to the authorities about everything and anything she knows in order to get immunity from prosecution.


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