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Monday, December 27, 2004

Indiana Law - Meth: a rising blight

The Louisville Courier-Journal is running a 3-part series, collectively titled "METH: a rising blight." Yesterday's main story was headlined "Meth's surge leaves a trail of misery in Kentucky and Indiana." Some quotes:

Despite years of warnings, Kentucky and Indiana were caught largely unprepared when methamphetamine began its ruinous sweep through both states.

Eleven other states updated their laws as early as 2001 to prevent addicts from buying enough cold and allergy medications to make meth by distilling out the chemical pseudoephedrine. But Kentucky and Indiana failed to do likewise, allowing the spread of makeshift meth labs in garages, fields, hotel rooms and nearly anywhere.

Kentucky and Indiana instead focused on toughening the penalties for possession and manufacturing of the drug and possession of pseudoephedrine. That strategy did not slow the drug's onslaught, and now both states expect to address the problem in their legislative sessions next year. * * *

Lawmakers and officials in both states said they have not been ignoring the meth problem, but rather they thought enacting stiff penalties for making meth would be enough. In Kentucky, a conviction brings a 10-year minimum sentence.

But critics said the states should have followed the early lead of Missouri, Oklahoma and others that found that restricting meth's ingredients was the single most effective solution.

Today's lead story is headlined "Court ruling constricts fight: All ingredients needed to convict." The reference is to a Kentucky ruling:
Caught in May 1999 outside a Somerset Wal-Mart with 288 "Equate" antihistamine tablets and most other ingredients to make meth Ronald Kotila seemed like he already had one foot in prison.

"I don't know of anyone who's ever had a cold that bad," prosecutor Christopher Brown told a Pulaski Circuit Court jury seven months later, on Jan.6, 2000, before it convicted Kotila of manufacturing methamphetamine and other offenses.

The evidence included two lithium batteries, six cans of starting fluid, one glass vial, a black cooking pot and three pieces of hose as well as more than two grams of the finished product found in his maroon Buick. Kotila was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

But by a 5-2 vote, the Kentucky Supreme Court reversed his conviction, saying the law did not apply to him because he did not have a crucial ingredient in the meth-making recipe: anhydrous ammonia.

The court ruled in June 2003 that the law creating a charge of manufacturing meth meant defendants had to have all of "the chemicals or equipment," not just some of them.

Prosecutors say the ruling has crippled their ability to punish people who make meth a felony that carries a 10-to-20-year sentence. The law still allows them to be arrested if they are caught making the drug. * * *

At least a half-dozen other convictions have been reversed by the Court of Appeals and Supreme Court because of the Kotila ruling, according to records of those courts.

And prosecutors say that savvy meth manufacturers are exploiting the ruling by not assembling the ingredients in one location until they are ready to cook up a batch. * * *

Kentucky also is the only state that allows a prosecution for manufacturing meth based on mere possession of the chemicals and equipment necessary to make it; other states penalize that as "attempted manufacturing," which carries a lesser penalty.

In Indiana, the manufacturing process must have begun to sustain a conviction for manufacturing meth, although runners caught with some of the necessary chemicals may be charged with conspiring to make the drug, which carries the same penalty, said Deputy Prosecutor Jeremy Mull, who prosecutes drug cases in Clark County, Ind.

Another story focuses on the environmental impact of meth labs. The headline: "Meth labs are perilous, can scar environment
Cleanup costs sap state resources."

Posted by Marcia Oddi on December 27, 2004 06:35 PM
Posted to Indiana Law