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

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U.S. Supreme Court

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

Pinkerton v. United States

No. 719

Argued May 1, 1946

Decided June 10, 1946

328 U.S. 640


1. Where an indictment charges both a conspiracy to engage in a course of criminal conduct and a series of substantive offenses committed pursuant to the conspiracy, the substantive offenses are not merged into the conspiracy; and, upon conviction, the accused may be punished both for the conspiracy and for the substantive offenses. Braverman v. United States, 317 U. S. 49, distinguished. Pp. 328 U. S. 642-643.

2. The plea of double jeopardy is no defense to a conviction for both offenses. P. 328 U. S. 643.

3. It is not material that overt acts charged in the conspiracy count are also charged and proved as substantive offenses. P. 328 U. S. 644.

4. A party to a continuing conspiracy may be responsible for substantive offenses committed by a co-conspirator in furtherance of the conspiracy, even though he does not participate in the substantive offenses or have any knowledge of them. United States v. Sall, 116 F.2d 745, overruled. Pp. 328 U. S. 645-648.

151 F.2d 499, affirmed.

Page 328 U. S. 641

Petitioners were convicted of a conspiracy to violate the Internal Revenue Code and of several substantive violations of the Code, and were sentenced both for the conspiracy and for the substantive offenses. The Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. 151 F.2d 499. This Court granted certiorari. 327 U.S. 772. Affirmed, p. 328 U. S. 648.

Primary Holding

The actions of any member of a conspiracy can be attributed to any of the other members as long as the conspiracy lasts, even if there is no specific agreement regarding that act.


Brothers Daniel and Walter Pinkerton engaged in illegal dealings in whiskey on Daniel's farm, where both of them lived. They were convicted of violating the Internal Revenue Code as well as conspiracy to violate it. Only Walter was responsible for the substantive crimes, so Daniel appealed on the grounds that he should not have been convicted of conspiracy even though Walter's actions had been taken in furtherance of the conspiracy.



  • William Orville Douglas (Author)
  • Harold Hitz Burton
  • Hugo Lafayette Black
  • Stanley Forman Reed
  • Frank Murphy

During the duration of a conspiracy, overt acts by any of the conspirators are attributed to all of them unless a different agreement has been made with regard to that act. The criminal intent requirement applies to the formation of the conspiracy, and it appeared in this instance that the conspiracy had continued without interruption because the defendant had not withdrawn from it.


  • Wiley Blount Rutledge (Author)
  • Felix Frankfurter

The majority sets an overly broad precedent because the defendant had no impact on the co-conspirator's acts and apparently had no knowledge of them.


  • Robert Houghwout Jackson (Author)

Case Commentary

This case implicitly raised the question of what must be done to abandon a conspiracy, which usually consists of informing the other conspirators of the withdrawal. However, a conspirator who abandons the conspiracy still may be liable for criminal conduct that occurred before withdrawing.

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