It is important to first note that drug crimes are regulated by all fifty states, as well as the federal government. Both local and federal governments have enacted laws that address the possession, use, manufacture, and sale of certain drugs. Further, each drug crime has its own standards and criminal penalties, especially in terms of the severity of the drug crime that was committed.
Examples of common drug crimes include:
- Possession: Drug possession is the most common criminal drug offense, which arises when a person is knowingly in possession of a drug without authorization, such as when a person possesses a prescription drug without a valid prescription;
- Manufacturing: Drug manufacturing is a drug crime that involves creating or “cooking” a synthetic chemical substance, or extracting a natural drug, such as cooking methamphetamines;
- Drug Use: The use of illegal drugs is also a criminal act, especially in cases in which the drug requires a prescription from a doctor and the offender does not have the required prescription or when the drug is a controlled or illegal substance;
- Distribution of Drugs: Drug distribution is a drug crime that includes the sale, smuggling, trafficking, and/or delivery of illegal substances; and
- Drug Trafficking: A drug trafficking charge is a drug crime that includes criminal behavior such as the possession, manufacture, sale, purchase, and/or delivery of illegal or controlled substances.
When it comes to cooking methamphetamines, commonly referred to as meth, there are many different drug crimes that a person may be charged with. First, meth is a controlled substance under the federal Controlled Substances Act. The Act regulates drugs that can have a detrimental effect on a person’s health and welfare, by classifying drugs into five schedules based on the drug’s:
- Medicinal value;
- Potential for abuse;
- Safety to the public; and
- Likelihood for dependency.
Specifically, meth is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance, meaning it has a high potential for abuse, but still has some medical value. As such, there are numerous meth legal issues that arise whenever meth is involved. However, when it comes to a meth lab, i.e. any dwelling, building, or structure used for the manufacture or cooking of methamphetamines, there are numerous drug crimes that arise. The most commonly charged crime for meth labs is drug manufacturing.
Is It Illegal to Manufacture Methamphetamines?
In short, yes. As mentioned above, methamphetamines are a Schedule II controlled substance, and as such the manufacturing of meth is considered to be a severe drug crime. However, as a Schedule II drug, there are instances in which licensed drug manufacturers may research and otherwise utilize methamphetamines in the creation of a drug product.
However, in general meth manufacturing laws do not allow individuals to manufacture methamphetamines, especially at a home meth lab. In fact, the act of manufacturing or cooking meth at a private meth lab is considered to be drug manufacturing of a controlled substance, as noted in the drug crimes listed above. In fact, most state drug statutes make it illegal to operate a meth lab in the state, and classify such operations as a felony offense.
Although the exact penalties associated with operating a meth lab and manufacturing meth differ by state, in general the criminal penalties associated with meth labs include imprisonment of up to 10 years, severe criminal fines of up to $10,000, or a combination of both. Further, as a felony, if an individual is convicted they will lose out on certain rights, such as the right to vote, obtain professional licenses, or own a firearm.
It is important to note that even activities that are associated with the manufacturing of methamphetamines may also be considered to be illegal drug manufacturing. For example, storage of a large quantity of pseudoephedrine, which is a substance used exclusively to manufacture meth, or the presence of chloroephedrine, a contaminant formed when methamphetamine is manufactured using ephedrine or pseudoephedrine, may also be considered to be illegally manufacturing meth.
Federal Laws Against Meth Labs
In addition to the Federal Controlled Substances Act discussed above, there are also other federal laws that criminally punish the presence and use of meth labs. In fact, there was a lot of recent federal legislation that targeted fighting meth throughout the United States. Because of the potential for high abuse and the increased presence of meth throughout the United States, in 1996, the Comprehensive Methamphetamine Act was passed.
That Act had the following effect on meth:
- The Act permitted the domestic seizure and forfeiture of methamphetamine precursor chemicals, such as pseudoephedrine found in meth labs;
- The Act directed the Attorney General to coordinate international drug enforcement efforts to interdict such chemicals utilized in meth production;
- The Act increased penalties for the possession of equipment used to make controlled substances, and penalties associated with drug trafficking of certain precursor chemicals used in manufacturing meth; and
- The Act required an interagency task force to be developed and implement prevention, education and meth treatment strategies.
As mentioned above, each state has laws that make the use of meth labs, or possession of meth, an illegal crime. Additionally, there are also Federal penalties for manufacturing meth, which are also severe. In fact, the mandatory minimum drug sentence for the manufacture of meth is five years in a federal prison. Additionally, there are statutory criminal fines associated with possession, based on the amount of the controlled substances that were seized.
A potential federal sentence for possessing meth largely depends on the jurisdiction and the facts of each specific case. For example, possession of meth may be a misdemeanor with a fine and one year in jail. However, possession of higher amounts with intent to distribute or the manufacturing of meth may result in higher fines and longer jail time, as well as felony charges.
State Laws against Meth Labs
As mentioned above, every state has laws against the manufacture, possession, and use of meth. State penalties for the manufacture of meth vary, but a person charged with manufacturing meth is typically charged with a felony. As such, despite the differences in state laws, a person charged with meth manufacturing can expect a minimum five years in prison on average, along with heavy criminal fines.
Additionally, states have also begun regulating the sale of over the counter cold medications that contain the chemical pseudoephedrine, such as Sudafed. In fact, in order to obtain most decongestants individuals must now go to the pharmacy counter and provide a form of identification so that the pharmacy may track the purchases of the drug.
Such measures were implemented to limit the amount of ingredients that may be utilized to manufacture methamphetamines. As such, there are certain state laws that classify the possession of certain amounts of pseudoephedrine as a crime in and of itself.
I Have Been Charged with Running a Meth Lab. Do I Need a Criminal Lawyer?
If you have been charged with the use, possession, or running of a meth lab, it is important that you immediately contact an experienced drug lawyer. As can be seen, the criminal penalties associated with running a meth lab are severe and include minimum federal prison sentences. As such, consulting an experienced attorney is necessary in every case.
An experienced attorney can help you establish your best legal defense case, assert any legal defenses that may be available to you, and represent you at any in person criminal proceeding, as necessary. Further, an attorney will also be able to work with the prosecution to ensure the charges against you are either dismissed, or help you work towards a less criminal sentence, such as probation.