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Monday, November 17, 2014

Ind. Decisions - "Supreme Court clarifies how to measure seized meth operations"

That is the headline of Dan Carden's Nov. 14th story in the NWI Times, reporting on the Supreme Court's Nov. 13th opinion in Joseph K. Buelna v. State of Indiana. From the story:

The Indiana Supreme Court has ruled stiffer penalties for methamphetamine makers must be based on the weight of the final product and not a mid-manufacturing mixture that contains some meth.

In a 5-0 decision, the state's high court said police who discover a working meth lab must determine how much meth could have been created using present ingredients if prosecutors intend to seek a sentence enhancement based on the amount of meth seized.

"Simply presenting massive quantities of intermediate mixtures or precursors is insufficient to establish the weight enhancement absent evidence of final yield," said Chief Justice Loretta Rush. "Because methamphetamine manufacture is a complicated process that depends on a variety of independent factors, unfinished mixtures and precursors alone tell a jury nothing about how much final product can be produced."

Police need not become meth makers themselves and complete the manufacturing process to determine final yield.

Rush said an expert or skilled witness can testify as to how much meth could be made given the manufacturing conditions, ingredients and skills of the accused.

Under Indiana law, a person manufacturing less than 1 gram of meth commits a Level 5 felony (advisory prison term: three years); more than 1 gram but less than 5 grams a Level 4 felony (six years); more than 5 grams but less than 10 grams a Level 3 felony (nine years); and more than 10 grams a Level 2 felony (17.5 years).

Rush said lawmakers would not have devised that classification scheme if they intended an intermediate meth mixture to count as the final product, since it then would be almost impossible for any meth making operation to qualify as a low-level crime.

"We do not believe the General Assembly intended to write a statute that made virtually every instance of methamphetamine manufacture a (Level 2) felony," Rush said.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on November 17, 2014 08:45 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions