What Does ''Wharton's Rule'' Exception Mean ?
What is Wharton's Rule in criminal law ?
Generally, a conspiracy and the completed substantive offense are distinct crimes for which a criminal defendant may be prosecuted and punished. Iannelli v. United States, 420 U.S. 770, 777-79, 43 L. Ed. 2d 616, 95 S. Ct. 1284 (1975).
As an exception to the general rule, Wharton's Rule provides that when the substantive crime by its nature necessarily requires the participation of two persons, an agreement by two persons to commit that crime may not also be prosecuted as a conspiracy. Id. at 773.
The rule is not based on double jeopardy principles, but is a judicial presumption, applied where there is no legislative intent to the contrary. Id. at 782.
Classic Wharton Rule offenses are adultery, bigamy, and dueling; in other words, crimes in which the parties to the agreement are the only ones who participate in the substantive offense and the immediate consequences of the crime rest primarily on the parties. Id.
Other jurisdictions have refused to apply Wharton's Rule to conspiracy cases involving substantive drug offenses for various reasons.
United States v. Jones, 801 F.2d 304, 311 (8th Cir. 1986) (Wharton's Rule inapplicable because Congress never manifested intent to restrict federal conspiracy statute);
United States v. Bommarito, 524 F.2d 140, 145 (2nd Cir. 1975) (same);
Zambrana v. United States, 790 F. Supp. 838, 849 (N. D. Ind. 1992) (where the consequences of the conspiracy will impact society at-large rather than merely the parties, and the conspiracy is likely to result in numerous purchase and sale agreements to distribute cocaine, Wharton's Rule is inapplicable).