Methamphetamine, colloquially referred to as “crystal meth,” is a highly addictive substance. Meth is classified as a schedule II controlled substance under federal law. Meth possession, sale, or manufacture is a federal and state crime. Additionally, it is a very dangerous drug, posing numerous health and safety risks to those who use or manufacture it.
The United States has faced repeated surges of meth abuse over the last three decades. As a result, the federal government and individual states have enacted legislation increasing the severity of penalties for those convicted of selling (distributing), manufacturing, or trafficking meth. States have taken a variety of approaches to possession penalties. Certain states have reduced possession penalties on the grounds that personal use frequently results in addiction. Other states have not followed suit, and tough-on-crime legislation remains on their books.
This article will discuss the penalties for meth possession and its precursors. The penalties for selling, manufacturing, and trafficking meth are significantly more severe, with numerous enhancements for crimes that endanger children, life, or property.
How Is Crystal Meth Defined?
While many drugs, such as cocaine and marijuana, are derived from plants, meth is synthesized through the use of chemicals. It is frequently synthesized as a white powdery or rock-like substance that is smoked, snorted, or injected. Meth is frequently referred to as “crystal meth” due to its rock-like appearance. Additionally, meth is referred to by a variety of other names, including “ice,” “crank,” “speed,” and “glass.”
The manufacturing process is quite hazardous, as it involves the use of explosive and noxious chemicals that have a negative impact on the environment. Homes, apartments, and other structures that have been used as meth labs require extensive detoxification and are frequently demolished to save money on remediation.
What Is the Difference Between Meth Precursors and Paraphernalia?
Apart from prohibiting possession of meth, the majority of jurisdictions make it illegal to possess the chemicals used to manufacture meth (known as “precursors”). Ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, phenylpropanolamine, and norpseudoephedrine are all precursors to meth. Numerous states and the federal government criminalize the possession and retail sale of precursors in specified amounts. For example, it is a misdemeanor under federal law to purchase more than nine grams of meth precursors within a 30-day period. Regulations and penalties vary by state.
Additionally, most states prohibit the possession of paraphernalia used in the sale or manufacture of meth, such as scales or balances, or used to smoke or inject meth, such as glass pipes.
What Exactly Is Possession?
To convict someone of meth possession, the prosecutor must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant possessed the drug with knowledge.
Knowingly implies that the individual was aware that the substance was a drug and that they possessed it. For instance, if a packet of drugs is slipped into another person’s bag, the bag owner does not knowingly possess the drugs.
Possession can refer to either actual or constructive possession of the drug by the defendant. Actual possession implies that the individual possesses the drugs (such as in their hands or a coat pocket). If the drugs are not physically on the defendant—say, in a drawer or trunk of a vehicle—the prosecutor must establish that the defendant had constructive possession of the drugs. Constructive possession requires the prosecutor to establish that the defendant was aware of the drug and exercised “control” over it. Control could entail possessing the key to the car trunk or having access to the drawer containing the drugs.
Possession of Crystal Meth: Crimes and Penalties
Penalties for possession of meth vary according to whether the case was brought under federal or state law. Convictions carry a range of penalties, from a fine or a misdemeanor jail sentence to a lengthy prison sentence for felonies.
Federal Penalties for Meth Possession in the Unlawful Possession of Meth
Under federal law, knowingly or intentionally possessing meth is a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison on a first offense. Subsequent meth possession offenses, on the other hand, carry mandatory minimum sentences and are punishable as felonies. A second offense carries a mandatory minimum of 15 days in jail and a maximum of two years in prison, as well as a minimum $2,500 fine. A third or subsequent offense carries a sentence of 90 days to three years in prison and a minimum $5,000 fine.
Simple Possession of Meth: State Penalties
State penalties for meth vary significantly, ranging from traffic violations and minor misdemeanors to felonies. Certain states adhere to the federal model, which criminalizes simple possession regardless of the quantity or type of drug involved. Other states impose penalties based on the quantity or type of drug involved, or a combination of the two. The majority of states have enhanced penalties for subsequent convictions.
Defenses Against Prosecution and Immunity From Prosecution
Depending on the facts of the case, a defendant may be able to defend against possession charges or avoid charges being filed in the first place.
Defenses. Several common defense strategies for defending against drug possession charges include the following:
Attempting to suppress evidence of the drugs on the basis of an unauthorized search or seizure, and
Defending the prosecution’s case by claiming the defendant did not possess the drugs (lack of knowledge or control over the drugs).
Laws governing good Samaritans. To combat drug overdoses, several states have enacted Good Samaritan laws that shield individuals from certain drug charges when seeking medical assistance for themselves or others. These laws are intended to encourage people to seek assistance without fear of arrest or being charged with drug possession. States vary in their implementation of these Good Samaritan protections. Some allow a defendant to assert this defense, while others grant immunity from prosecution for specific possession charges.
Consult an Attorney
Being charged with a meth possession offense can be extremely serious. Consult an attorney who is familiar with the applicable drug laws and penalties in your particular case. A skilled criminal defense attorney can assess your case and any possible defenses.
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*This information is not intended to be legal advice. Please contact Canterbury Law Group today to learn more about your personal legal needs.