Does Schroder & Schroder, PLC, Handle Methamphetamine-Lab Cases?
I have been asked whether we handle methamphetamine-lab cases. Yes, and quite often. Methamphetamine charges are more prevalent in rural counties such as Allegan, St. Joseph, Barry, Van Buren, Branch, and to a certain extent, Calhoun. This is probably because methamphetamine is a drug-of-choice alternative to cocaine, which is more prevalent and easier to obtain in urban communities. Cocaine availability in urban centers may account for the disparity in ethnic minorities charged with methamphetamine crimes. My personal experience is that most methamphetamine cases involve Caucasian defendants, and Black or Hispanic defendants are not often involved in methamphetamine production or use.
Methamphetamine lab cases often involve defenses relating to knowing possession and intent. Almost any crime involving controlled substances or drugs requires the prosecution to prove that the defendant (1) knew that the substance or item possessed was a controlled substance, or (2) intended the substance or item possessed to be used in manufacturing a controlled substance. This can get very dicey for both prosecutors and defendants in methamphetamine-lab cases.
For instance, I’ve personally handled cases where defendants have been charged with operating or possessing a methamphetamine lab for: purchasing pseudoephedrine, or matches, or fertilizer, or lantern fuel, or a host of other components involved in a methamphetamine lab. So, is it illegal to purchase pseudoephedrine, matches, fertilizer, or lantern fuel? No, of course not. Is it illegal to purchase pseudoephedrine, matches, fertilizer, or lantern fuel with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine? Yes, and the crime carries up to 20 years in prison.
How do prosecutors prove that defendants possess items with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine? The first and most prevalent method is using a defendant’s confession against the defendant, which is surprisingly common and easily obtained. Police watch the pharmacy, follow a suspect after the suspect leaves the pharmacy, conduct a traffic stop on the suspect, and cajole the suspect driver into admitting that he just purchased pseudoephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine. That seemingly minor admission can lead to a lengthy prison term. The second method used involves calling expert police witnesses to testify about how the collection of items in the defendant’s possession (lantern fuel, coffee filters, fertilizer, salt, and pseudoephedrine found in the grocery bags in the defendant’s trunk) can all be used together to manufacture methamphetamine. This expert testimony is vital to the prosecution, so it’s vital for the defense to disqualify or dilute the expert’s testimony.
Methamphetamine-lab cases carry severe penalties, which can often expose a defendant to a risk of a lengthy prison term. There are also sentencing laws that can extend a prison term if the defendant is convicted of a methamphetamine-lab charge and an additional crime. For instance, if a defendant is charged with possession of methamphetamine and possession of a methamphetamine lab, sentencing for those crimes can run consecutive rather than concurrent. This means that the prison time is not counted all at once, so a defendant completes a prison term for the possession charge before the prison term for the lab charge begins to run. This has the effect of “stacking” the prison sentences resulting in a longer incarceration time.
So, it’s vital that a defendant (1) rely on the right to remain silent, and (2) retain an attorney who is experienced in these cases, which includes knowledge about search and seizure law, methods of manufacturing methamphetamine, handling expert witnesses relating to scientific evidence, and alternatives to prosecution and imprisonment such as drug-treatment court.
Jeffrey M. Schroder, Esq.