Methamphetamine (“meth”) is a schedule II controlled substance under the Controlled Substance Act, which means the drug has some accepted medical use but there is a high potential for abuse and addiction. The mere act of possessing meth without a prescription can lead to federal prosecution.
The convictions involved with the possession of meth vary by how much of the drug is in possession. Possession alone of meth is not as severe of a crime as trafficking meth which imposes a minimum 10-year sentence.
Investigation into the distribution and manufacturing of meth has increased in recent years due to a large increase in the use of meth. The federal government and several state governments responded to the meth problem by posing strict laws on not just meth itself, but also on the products that are commonly used in meth like pseudoephedrine.
Possession of any amount of meth or someone else has meth and denies possession of meth in a common area it can lead to prosecutors pressing charges. For example, there are multiple cases where an individual was arrested after meth was found in the room or vehicle that they were in. In these situations, it is important to know and assert your rights.
If you have been arrested or if you are under investigation for methamphetamine possession or distribution then contacting a criminal defense attorney should be your first step. It is important to know your rights and address any possible defenses you may have.
Possession charges under 21 U.S. Code § 844 states that it is unlawful to knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance unless it was obtained through a valid prescription in your name. This charge applies to possession of meth in quantities less than 5 grams. .
§ 844 does not only apply to the controlled substance-meth but also to common ingredients that are used in the manufacturing of meth. In an effort to cut back on producers of meth the federal government also made it illegal to intentionally purchase more than 9 grams of any ephedrine, pseudoephedrine, or phenylpropanolamine based drug.
Meth possession is infrequently prosecuted on federal charges, however, if the federal government chooses to prosecute the sentence could be up to 1 year in jail and a fine of $1,000. For repeat offenders the maximum sentence goes up to 2 years for the second conviction and 3 years for more than 3 past convictions.
Possession charges are usually handled by the states rather than the federal. In the State of New York, they also prosecute the possession and sale of Meth. The punishments under the NY meth statutes are much less severe than the federal statutes. Possession of more than 2 ounces under New York State Penal Law § 220.18 and selling more than ½ an ounce of Meth under § 220.41 both have the highest penalty of 3 to 10 years in prison.
Trafficking cases, on the other hand, are prosecuted frequently by the federal government. The federal government may also prosecute a trafficking case in any Federal Court where any part of the trafficking took place.
Trafficking charges under 21 U.S. Code § 841 it is illegal to knowingly or intentionally manufacture, distribute, or dispense meth and that it is illegal to possess meth with the intention to manufacture, distribute, or dispense. Any amount over 5 grams of meth can be charged under trafficking law but the prosecutor would need to show an intent to distribute the meth.
The sentencing guidelines for trafficking meth range in a minimum sentence between 5 years to a minimum of a life sentence and a fine that can range from $1 million to $75 million.
The possession of meth between 5 grams and 50 grams or the possession of mixture substance between 50 grams and 500 grams with the intent to distribute carries a sentence between 5 to 40 years for the first offense, between 10 and life if you have a prior felony drug offense, and 20 years to life if someone dies as a result of your distribution.
The possession of meth in amounts of 50 grams or of mixture substance 500 grams or more with the intent to distribute carries a sentence of 10 years to life, 20 years to life if you have any prior felony drug offence, and a mandatory life sentence if someone dies as a result of the distributed meth.
The prosecutor must prove for both crimes in New York and Federal cases that you were in the possession of the meth. Possession means that you were the one who had physical possession of the meth or constructive possession, which means you had the ability to control the drugs. For a trafficking case the prosecutor must also show that you had the intent to manufacture, distribute or dispense the meth.
III. Detection and Investigation
The investigation into the manufacturing and distribution of meth has increased in recent years. The Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) usually takes the lead on investigations of trafficking and manufacturing of meth, but the case gets to them in a variety of ways.
Detection of possession or trafficking of meth happens through undercover investigations, informants giving information, and other tracking efforts such as tracking common ingredients in meth. Trafficking of meth is also found through random or selected search of boxes shipped through the USPS, FedEx, or UPS.
If you are suspected to be trafficking or manufacturing meth the federal government may investigate in a variety of ways such as; using informants, wiretap phones, get information from banks, or using undercover agents. After an investigation, they may choose to place you under arrest or search your home. It is important to know your rights if you are asked questions you have the right to not incriminate yourself and you have the right to have an attorney present for questioning.
If after the investigation begins the Department of Justice feels the case might involve trafficking or manufacturing meth they will usually try and take the lead on the investigation. The DEA in association with local authorities will look into where the meth is coming from to try and determine who is manufacturing and distributing.
The DEA, the FBI and sometimes local authorities will perform raids of places they suspect to be manufacturing or distributing meth. In order for the police to enter into your house they usually need a warrant, so if they come to your house asking for a warrant should be one of your first questions. If they have a search warrant that states your address and items to be seized you should comply with the officers entry into your building because the resistance of a valid search warrant could lead to other charges.
Representation from a criminal lawyer with expertise in handling federal drug charges is important because it could help make the difference in your case. As with most crimes the best way to avoid detection is to disassociate yourself with any connections to meth or people you know or suspect deal in meth.
If you are currently under arrest or under investigation an attorney will be able to help you deal with the authorities to try and find what evidence they have on you and to help plan your best defenses to these crimes.
IV. Court Actions
The possession and trafficking of meth can result in a criminal trial where the prosecutors will try to convict you of possessing, manufacturing, or trafficking meth. These types of crimes do not usually involve any civil litigation, however, the fines associated with trafficking meth are immense.
A federal criminal trial begins first with an investigation. During the investigation, the investigators will try and illicit confessions and information that they can use to convict. It is important to know what the government’s burden of proof is for possession and trafficking as to not accidentally disclose incriminating information. Having an attorney present for questioning could help you avoid these pitfalls.
Whenever you are questioned by the DEA or police officers you have the right to remain silent to not incriminate yourself and you have the right to have an attorney present. If the authorities begin questioning you about meth possession or trafficking you may tell them that you want to speak to an attorney.
If the Department of Justice and Attorney General’s Office feel that there is enough evidence they will most likely press federal charges. Likewise, if the District Attorney or Attorney General’s office in New York feels there is enough evidence they may press state charges.
When they press charges, especially for trafficking, they will most likely issue a warrant for your arrest and place you under arrest. After charges are brought there will be a grand jury hearing where they determine if there is enough evidence to indict.
After the indictment, the government will continue to gather evidence and prepare for trial. At this point, your attorney should be reviewing all of the evidence and preparing the best defense for a trial. Any time after charges are brought the defendant may enter into a guilty plea; however, it is advised that the defendant not enter a guilty plea without first conferring with an attorney.
V. Importance of Defense
A successful conviction of possession or trafficking meth will result in jail time and a fine based on how much meth was found and if there was intent to sell or traffic the drugs. Additionally, a prior conviction for a felony drug possession would double the minimum sentence for any trafficking charges.
The federal government is relentless in their investigations into meth in an attempt to cut down on the manufacturing and distribution of meth. Once the federal government find a distributor or dealer they might also try and work out a deal to give them information on the rest of the distribution ring.
Having a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in federal drug offenses is important because a detailed understanding of the law and potential problems with a prosecutor’s case could make the difference in reaching a favorable outcome.
If the prosecutor charged you with possession of meth they would need to prove that you intentionally possessed meth. These charges could result from them finding meth on your person or in your house or car. The best defense for this crime could be either that any possession was not intentional or that there was no possession of the meth because the meth was not in your control.
If you are caught with more than 5 grams of meth on your person there is a chance that the federal government might charge you under the trafficking laws. The prosecutor might be charging falsely under this law however if you were not planning on distributing the meth. Possession for personal use is illegal however a possession sentence is much smaller than a trafficking offense.
VI. Recent Cases and Their Impact
The courts have also used a method of determining the amount of meth in favor of the government. Any mixtures used with amounts of meth can be considered to be pure meth at whatever percentage purity is in the mixture. In United States v. Villegas the court held that a 439.5-gram mixture that contained about 85% meth, even though it was not considered pure meth, would count as 374 grams of pure meth. United States v. Villegas, 554 F.3d 894 (10th Cir.2009)
If you sell common ingredients that are used to create meth you may also face prosecution. The defend in United States v. Honeycutt was convicted of selling iodine knowing it would be used to manufacture meth and the Sixth Circuit upheld his conviction. United States v. Honeycutt, 816F.3d 362, 379–80 (6th Cir. 2016)
The Eighth Amendment also outlaws cruel and unusual punishment, however, the courts have ruled that the sentencing guideline for meth is not cruel and unusual punishment. In United States v. Camberos-Villapuda the court held that a mandatory life sentence was not cruel and unusual for an attempt to distribute 500 grams or more of meth with two prior felony drug convictions. United States v. Camberos-Villapuda, 832 F.3d 948, 951 (8th Cir. 2016)
VII. Proactive Advice and What to Do if Accused
If you find out you are under investigation for possessing or trafficking meth it is advised to contact an attorney because having an attorney can make the difference between a successful defense and an unfavorable result in your case. The investigators in the DEA will try to continue to gather evidence against you and any co-conspirators to try and make a strong case against you.
The best precautionary measures for not getting arrested and charged with meth laws is to not deal in meth and to avoid anyone you know that deals in meth.
As with most drug-based cases, the DEA is usually more interested in stopping entire rings of distribution, so there is a chance they will continue to investigate even after they have enough evidence on one person. The DEA might also press charges early against someone, or let them know about evidence they have to try and get cooperation to get further evidence or have them become confidential informants.
It is important whenever the DEA or police question you always have the right to not incriminate yourself and the right to speak to an attorney. If you are negotiating with the authorities having a lawyer will help to get the most favorable outcome. If you are charged and arrested having an attorney will help you assert your rights and help you not incriminate yourself.
VIII. Call to Action
If you become under investigation for possession or trafficking of meth it is important to contact an attorney. Having an attorney that understands the intricacies of the law will help you plan the best course of action for you. If you are under investigation it is important to speak to an attorney so they can help plan next steps and for them to be present during questioning to help you through the investigation process.
The charge of trafficking and possession of meth can be a very serious charge and having a criminal attorney that specializes in federal drug charges can make all the difference.