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Experienced Methamphetamine Defense Can Greatly Increase Your Odds Against Serving Prison Time

Throughout the years the manufacturing process of making methamphetamine has evolved to the current "one pot" cook method wherein a plastic bottle is used to combine various ingredients including lithium battery strips, lye, Coleman fuel, pseudoephedrine, and other ingredients.  The plastic bottle is referred to as a "lab."  Despite the fact that this process can be conducted inside a moving vehicle.  The process is inherently fraught with danger from the gases created during the process. 

I routinely defend persons charged with these serious offenses.  The first issue they must address is the high bonds initially set by the judge.  Many times bonds are in excess of $25,000 cash which represents only 10% of the actual bond amount.   In Illinois attorneys cannot post bond for a client.  Therefore, it is necessary for a family member or friend to post bond personally.  A bond redution motion can be filed and are sometimes but not always granted.  Judges usually keep these bonds high with the presumption if one person is convicted they will be serving a lengthy prison term.  In trafficking cases it is common for the defendant to be from outside the state.  That alone results in higher bond for the defendant.

Illinois Law Is Tough on Posession of Methamphetamine and Its Ingredients

Illinois has created some very tough laws regarding possession of not only prepared methamphetamine but also possession of the "precursors" or necessary ingredients.  Purchasing requirements for pseudoephedrine require presentation of a driver's license and signature from the purchaser.  This information is entered into what is commonly known as the NPLEX.  The NPLEX is a nationwide database that contains all purchase and attempted but blocked purchases of pseudoephedrine containing cold medicine.  As an example of how the NPLEX works - you go to Walgreens and buy some Alleve.  You sign for the purchase and pay for it.  Your photo is taken by the security camera and your name and signature as well as the time and date are all sent to the NPLEX to be recorded in the data base.  Most people don't buy pseudoephedrine too often so their names won't appear on the NPLEX in a suspicious manner.  However, the police will routinely obtain NPLEX records for use at trial to prove a person charged with manufacturing or possession have been purchasing (or attempting to purchase) pseudoephedrine much more often than a regular customer.   This evidence is very compelling when presented to a jury.  It is hard to explain why a client purchased pseudoephedrine three times in two days at 3:00 a.m.  One trial strategy dealing with NPLEX records is to object to their introduction as the records themselves originate from Kentucky.  In order to properly lay a foundation to introduce those records the State must bring in a live body who will act as the custodian of records.  Without this evidence there can be no foundation.  Therefore, the NPLEX records aren't admitted.  There is a procedure to get around this live testimony however skilled legal counsel can usually thwart the State's efforts in this regard.

Also, there is another database referred to as a "toxic log."  This database is not as complete as the NPLEX because the items it records are not required to be regulated like pseudoephedrine is.  Purchases of lye or other organic solvents at a local hardware store can result in an entry into the "toxic log."  This evidence is again very compelling at trial.  Again, foundational issues present themselves with introduction of this evidence.

The law in Illinois creates legal definitions that are contained in the methamphetamine control act itself.  Two words whose definition is frequently used during trial is "participation" and "manufacturing."  The definitions of both words are troubling because they define both as "attempting" to produce pseudoephedrine.  The reason that creates a problem is due to the manner in which Illinois creates a crime of attempt.  An attempt crime is charged one felony class lower than the actual crime.  So if a person was to be charged with attempted manufacture of methamphetamine of less than 15 grams that person would be facing a class 1 felony offense with possible punishment of 4-15 years in prison.   Attempt to produce would properly be charged as a class 2 felony with possible punishment of 3-7 years or probation.  In a trial I recently conducted and won the State charged my client with a super class x felony where his punishment would have been 9-40 years in prison.  The State attempted to introduce a jury instruction defining the act of manufacturing participation as:

"Participate" or "participation" in the manufacture of methamphetamine means to produce, prepare, compound, convert, process, synthesize, concentrate, purify, separate, extract, or package any methamphetamine, methamphetamine precursor, methamphetamine manufacturing catalyst, methamphetamine manufacturing reagent, methamphetamine manufacturing solvent, or any substance containing any of the foregoing, or to assist in any of these actions, or to attempt to take any of these actions, regardless of whether this action or these actions result in the production of finished methamphetamine.

Now, technically, the State's tender of the definition seemed to be proper.  However, a fair reading of the definition creates a lot of problem for the client.  A careful reading of the definition clearly states "produce ... methamphetamine precursor (pseudoephedrine) or to assist in any of these actions."  This gives the jury the impression that a person can only assist in obtaining pseudoephedrine and commit the offense of participation in methamphetamine manufacturing.  This would negatively create an inference that the individual did not actually have to take any steps towards completion of the manufacturing process.  I was successful in keeping the instruction out.  That won the case for my client.

Most Methamphetamine cases connected to a "lab" involve very high weights due to the law that allows the State to weigh the entire liquid mixture containing meth as a total weight against the client.  Since the "shake and bake" method is commonly used, cases commonly involve a 2 liter bottle with thousands of grams of liquid inside.  The entire liquid weight counts in the methamphetamine penalty.  As an example, if there are 5 grams of actual methamphetamine in a 2,000 gram mixture inside a "lab" the entire 2,000 gram weight counts against the client.  This one example is commonly encountered in meth manufacturing or participation offenses. 

The penalties associated with most methamphetamine manufacturing or trafficking cases are very high.  Facing a penalty up to 120 years in prison exceeds what most convicted murderers face on their own charges. 

If you are facing a methamphetamine charge and need legal assistance please call my office to arrange a consultation.  Let us move forward quickly to reduce the bond and prepare the best defense you can obtain.

Brian L. Polinske
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