Criminal Law

Legal Consequences of Making and Taking Meth

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Practically anyone who comes into contact with meth faces stiff federal and state criminal penalties.

Federal Laws

The Combat Methamphetamine Epidemic Act of 2005 requires behind the counter sales of cold medicines containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient of meth. You can't simply take a package of these medicines off the shelf; a store employee or pharmacist must get it for you.

Also, this law restricts how much of these products you can buy in a 30-day period and requires stores to keep records of sales. Stores that don't follow these rules face fines and penalties.

Drug-Related Crimes. Meth is listed in the federal controlled substance laws. It's a schedule II drug, meaning it's considered to be a very dangerous substance. It's illegal to make, possess or sell meth. Depending on the amount of meth involved, the violator faces prison time for anywhere from five years to life, as well as thousands of dollars in fines.

Also, the government usually takes (called "forfeiture") money and property the violator obtained though the illegal drug activity.

State Laws

Just about every state's controlled substances laws specifically mention meth and call for very stiff penalties for violating them. Like the federal law, it's illegal in all states to make, sell or posses the drug.

On top of that, in states like Kentucky (PDF) and many others, it's illegal to possess a certain amount of chemicals used to make meth. Of course, the state has to prove the person had the intent to make meth, but that's usually not too difficult when the person is caught in a meth lab or has meth in his possession.

Like the federal law, many state laws allow for the forfeiture of profits from illegal drug activities. And state laws are typically just as strict, and sometimes more so, when it comes to punishing people who violate the meth laws. For instance:

Arkansas. Some of the laws in this state (begin at Ark. Code 5-64-402) include:

  • Making meth is a felony punishable by prison time from one year up to life, with fines from $1,000 to $15,000, depending on how much meth is involved
  • Possessing meth with the intent to deliver or sell it to someone else is a felony, punishable by 1 to 30 years in prison and a $10,000 to $15,000 fine, depending on how much meth is involved
  • Possessing drug paraphernalia with the purposing of using it to take meth is a felony punishable by up to six years in jail and up to a $10,000 fine

Kentucky. The drug-related laws here include:

On top of that, violators may have to pay any costs of disposing of the drug or environmental clean-up costs (PDF), such as when meth labs are involved.

Idaho's meth laws are tough, too:

  • Making or selling meth is a felony punishable by a prison term up to life and a fine of up to $25,000
  • Possessing meth is a felony punishable by up to seven years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine
  • Anyone at a place where meth is being made, sold or used faces up to 90 days in jail and up to a $300 fine

Oklahoma. Here, meth-related crimes and punishments include:

  • From two years to life in prison and a fine of up to $20,000 for making or selling meth - it's at least 20 years in prison and at least a $50,000 fine if the meth contains pseudoephedrine
  • Double the time of imprisonment and fine if the violator is at least 18 years old and uses someone under 18 years old to sell or make meth
  • Double the time of imprisonment and fine for selling meth within 2,000 feet of a school, park or public housing project

West Virginia. In this state:

  • Making or selling meth is felony, punishable by a prison term of one to five years and a fine of up to $15,000
  • Operating a meth lab is a felony punishable by a prison term of 2 to 10 years and a fine of $5,000 to $25,000
  • Possessing meth is a misdemeanor punishable by 90 days to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000

Wyoming. The meth-related laws in this state make it a felony:

  • To make or sell meth. Violators face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $25,000
  • To possess more than three grams of meth. Violators face up to seven years in prison and up to a $15,000 fine (possession of less than three grams is a misdemeanor carrying up to one year in jail and a $1,000 fine)
  • For anyone over 18 years to make or sell meth in a school bus, or on or within 500 feet of a school zone. Two years of prison and a $1,000 fine may be added to the violator's sentence

Also, anyone who intentionally uses meth in Wyoming faces six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

This is just a sampling of the laws in these states. There are other penalties in these states, and the laws in your state may be different. It's important to check the laws in your area or to talk to an attorney for more details.

Like any other illegal drug, there are harsh consequences for anyone who uses or abuses meth. Think twice about getting involved with it. The brief high or the fast buck simply aren't worth the health and legal problems.

Questions for Your Attorney

  • What are the meth-related criminal penalties in my state?
  • What happens if someone who's convicted of a meth crime can't pay the fine ordered by a court?
  • Can meth-related conviction be expunged?
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