Duhaime's Law Dictionary


Pinkerton Doctine Definition:

(USA) The conviction of a conspirator for criminal offenses committed by a co-conspirator that are within the scope of the conspiracy or in furtherance of it, and are reasonably foreseeable as a necessary or natural consequence of the conspiracy.

Related Terms: Conspiracy

The doctrine is named after the case in which it was proposed as law, Pinkerton v. United States, of the United States Supreme Court.

Of that case and of the law it established, Justice Borden of the Supreme Court of Connecticut wrote this in State v Walton (1993):

"In (Pinkerton v. United States), the United States Supreme Court held that a conspirator may be held liable for criminal offenses committed by a co-conspirator that are within the scope of the conspiracy, are in furtherance of it, and are reasonably foreseeable as a necessary or natural consequence of the conspiracy.

"Pinkerton liability is now a recognized part of federal criminal conspiracy jurisprudence....

"Pinkerton is not a broad principle of vicarious liability that imposes criminal responsibility upon every co-conspirator for whatever substantive offenses any of their confederates commit. On the contrary, in the very decision in which the principle was articulated, co-conspiratory liability was carefully confined to substantive offenses that are (a) committed in furtherance of the conspiracy, and (b) reasonably foreseeable by the co-conspirator sought to be held responsible as a necessary or natural consequence of the unlawful agreement. A conspirator may be found guilty of the substantive act of possession committed by a co-conspirator in furtherance of the conspiracy so long as the co-conspirator's acts are within the reasonably foreseeable scope of the conspiracy."

In US v Vasquez-Botet, Justice Juan Torruella of the United States Court of Appeals wrote:

"[U]nder the Pinkerton doctrine, a defendant can be found liable for the substantive crime of a co-conspirator provided the crime was reasonably foreseeable and committed in furtherance of the conspiracy."

REFERENCES:

  • Pinkerton v. United States, 328 U.S. 640 (1946)
  • State v. Martinez, 900 A. 2d 485 (2006)
  • State v. Walton, 227 Conn. 32
  • US v. Vazquez-Botet, 532 F. 3d 37 (2008)

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