Pinkerton v. United States
328 U.S. 640 (1946)

  • Walter and Daniel were brothers. They hatched a plan to bootleg whiskey. They were caught by the IRS (aka the “revenuers”) and charged with tax fraud.
  • The Trial Court found Walter guilty of nine tax violations and conspiracy. They found Daniel guilty of six tax violations and conspiracy. Daniel appealed.
    • Daniel argued that he had not bootlegged any whiskey, he just planned with Walter on how Walter could bootleg whiskey.
      • Daniel argued that while he might be guilty of conspiracy, he never committed and substantive crimes himself.
        • In face, several of the charges were for things Walter did after Daniel was arrested.
  • The Appellate Court upheld the conviction. Daniel appealed.
  • The US Supreme Court upheld the conviction.
    • The US Supreme Court found that when a defendant is joined in a conspiracy, substantive crimes committed to advance that conspiracy can be charged to all defendants as long as they are still part of the conspiracy when those crimes are committed.
  • Basically, this case defined the concept of Pinkerton liability, which says that if multiple people are involved in a conspiracy, and one of them commits a crime in furtherance of that conspiracy, then everyone is guilty of that substantive crime.
    • This is true even if they didn’t have anything to do with the crime itself. They don’t even have to know that the crime occurred.
      • For example, under Pinkerton liability, if a gang decides to rob a bank, and one of the gang, completely on his own, goes out and steals a car to use for the getaway, all of the gang members are guilty of stealing the car, even if they didn’t have any knowledge that the theft was going to happen.
  • Model Penal Code §2.06(3) rejects the concept of Pinkerton Liability and imposes accomplice liability on conspirators for the substantive crimes of their co-conspirators only when the strict conditions for accomplice liability are met.