You are here

9.19A Buyer-Seller Relationship

Printer-friendly version


A buyer-seller relationship between a defendant and another person, standing alone, cannot support a conviction for conspiracy. The fact that a defendant may have bought [specify controlled substance] from another person or sold [specify controlled substance] to another person is not sufficient without more to establish that the defendant was a member of the charged conspiracy. Instead, a conviction for conspiracy requires proof of an agreement to commit a crime beyond that of the mere sale. 

In considering whether the evidence supports the existence of a conspiracy or the existence of a buyer-seller relationship, you should consider all the evidence, including the following factors:

[(1) whether the sales were made on credit or consignment;]

[(2) the frequency of the sales;]

[(3) the quantity of the sales;]

[(4) the level of trust demonstrated between the buyer and the seller, including the use of codes;]

[(5) the length of time during which the sales were ongoing;]

[(6) whether the transactions were standardized;]

[(7) whether the parties advised each other on the conduct of the other's business;]

[(8) whether the buyer assisted the seller by looking for other customers;]

[(9) and whether the parties agreed to warn each other of potential threats from competitors or law enforcement.]

These are merely a list of relevant factors to aid you in analyzing the evidence; the presence or absence of any single factor is not determinative.


Use this instruction with Instruction 9.19 (Controlled Substance—Conspiracy to Distribute or Manufacture) if applicable.

See United States v. Moe, 781 F.3d 1120, 1128 (9th Cir. 2015) (explaining that no buyer-seller instruction is required when jury instructions as a whole accurately inform jury that conspiracy cannot be found based solely on sale of drugs from one party to another. However, buyer-seller instruction might assist jury in working through fact-intensive determinations and, in certain circumstances, buyer-seller instruction might be required).

"To show a conspiracy, the government must show not only that [the seller] gave drugs to other people knowing that they would further distribute them, but also that he had an agreement with these individuals to so further distribute the drugs." United States v. Lennick, 18 F.3d 814, 819 (9th Cir. 1994). 

The list of factors provided in this instruction is neither necessarily required nor meant to be exhaustive. See id. at 1125–26. The list of factors presented to the jury should be tailored to fit the facts of the case.





Approved 6/2015