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Braverman v. United States

Citation. 317 U.S. 49, 63 S. Ct. 99, 87 L. Ed. 23, 1942 U.S. 1198.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Petitioners, Braverman and others (Petitioners), were indicted with others on seven counts, each charging a conspiracy to violate a separate and distinct internal revenue law of the United States.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

One agreement between co-conspirators cannot be taken to be several agreements and, therefore, conspiracies merely because it envisions the possibility of violating several statutes rather than one.


At the end of trial, the Petitioners renewed a motion to require the government to elect one of the seven counts of the indictment upon which to proceed, contending that the proof did not establish more than one agreement. The Respondent, the United States (Respondent), countered by alleging that the seven counts of the indictment charged as distinct offenses were several illegal objects of one continuing conspiracy. As a result, the Respondent contended that if the jury found a conspiracy, it might find the Petitioners guilty of as many offenses as there were illegal objects. The trial judge submitted the case to the jury upon the Respondent’s theory and the jury returned a general verdict of guilty.


Should a single agreement to commit acts in violation of several penal statutes be punished as one or several conspiracies?


Although the conspiracy envisioned several statutes that might be broken during the course of plan, there was but one conspiracy from which the actions of the co-conspirators emerged. As a result, both the Trial and the Appellate Courts were wrong to allow the Petitioners to be convicted upon seven conspiracies.


No matter how many illegal acts emerge from an agreement between co-conspirators, it is that one conspiracy agreement that must be examined by any judge or jury. The court even went as far as defining conspiracy as “the agreement or confederation of the conspirators to commit one or more unlawful acts.” Therefore, through examination of the definition of conspiracy itself, multiple offenses can be sought through, but one conspiracy.

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