If a person dies or is seriously injured after using illegal drugs, the person who sold them the drugs is subject to mandatory minimum sentences under 21 U.S.C. § 841(b). But what happens when the person who sold the drug is a member of a drug distribution conspiracy? How can the courts go after the other members of that organization?
The Seventh Circuit answered these questions in United States v. Walker, when it held that other members of the conspiracy could also be subject to § 841(b)'s minimum sentences as long as they were within the "chain of distribution" for that fatal dose. Therefore, when someone takes a fatal dose of drugs, courts can use the chain of distribution rationale to impose minimum sentences all the way from the street-corner drug dealer to the drug kingpin.
This Comment looks at the legislative history behind § 841(b) and comments on Congress's attempts to use drug laws to target high-ranking members of drug organizations. Next, this Comment analyzes how the various circuits apply minimum sentences for individual drug crimes without any proximate cause or foreseeability requirement. Finally, this Comment looks at the facts in Walker, analyzes why the Seventh Circuit adopted a fact-intensive test for members of conspiracies, and argues that Walker best unifies the Seventh Circuit's sentencing standards for other drug-conspiracy crimes.
Chain Gang: Examining the Seventh Circuit's "Chain of Distribution Test" When Applying Minimum Sentences for Drug-Related Deaths,
Seventh Circuit Rev.
Available at: http://scholarship.kentlaw.iit.edu/seventhcircuitreview/vol9/iss1/5