Newsbrief: Kentucky Supreme Court Tightens Law on Methamphetamine Prosecutions 6/20/03

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Prosecutors in Kentucky can't charge people with manufacturing methamphetamine unless they actually have everything they need to do so, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled on June 12. Prosecutors there had gotten in the habit of charging people they suspected of preparing to manufacture meth with actual manufacture. Under Kentucky law, attempted meth manufacture warrants a five-year minimum sentence, while actual meth manufacture garners a minimum 10-year sentence. The ruling came in the case of Ronald Kotila, who was convicted in Pulaski County on a meth manufacturing charge in 1999. Kotila possessed many of the items needed to cook speed -- all of them commonly available and legal by themselves -- but not two essential ingredients, anhydrous ammonia and muriatic acid. Kentucky law specifies that for someone to be charged with meth manufacture, he must possess "the chemicals or equipment for the manufacture of methamphetamine."

The Supreme Court interpreted the phrase strictly. "The presence of the article 'the' is significant because, grammatically speaking, possession of some but not all of the chemicals or equipment does not satisfy the statutory language," the court said in an unsigned opinion.

Prosecutors began to whine immediately. "We're going to have to examine all of our cases that are pending right now," Davies County prosecutor David Nall told the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer. "It's really taken away a big stick so to speak, a punishment hammer. You've basically cut the fear in half." And so did at least one Supreme Court member, Chief Justice Joseph Lambert, who wrote the minority opinion in the 4-3 decision. It will be difficult to prosecute meth manufacture cases, Lambert wrote, because a suspect "with the least amount of ingenuity will be able to prevent his conviction by merely omitting from his cache of tools and ingredients one or two of the more common, and bringing in the missing components only at the last moment. Thus to achieve a conviction... it will be necessary to catch the offender 'red-handed.'"

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Issue #292, 6/20/03 DRCNet Needs Your Help | Editorial: No Drug War Exception to Good and Evil | The Gathering in Cartagena: The Global Social Forum Thematic Meeting on Democracy, Human Rights, War, and the Drug Trade | DRCNet Interview: Nancy Obregón, Sub-Secretary General of the Confederation of Peruvian Coca Growers | DRCNet Interview: Anthropologist Anthony Henman | Dozens of Students to Embark This Weekend on 50-Mile "Skate for Justice" | Newsbrief: 12 Tulia Victims Walk Out of Jail | No Rockefeller Reform This Session | Candidate Dean Bending on Medical Marijuana | Newsbrief: RAVE Act Reverberations | Newsbrief: Teachers Against Prohibition Reborn as Educators for Sensible Drug Policy | Newsbrief: Kentucky Supreme Court Tightens Law on Methamphetamine Prosecutions | Newsbrief: Thais Get Drug War Help from US | Newsbrief: US-Peru Anti-Drug Flights Set to Resume | Newsbrief: Israeli Company Receives Notice of Allowance from US Patent Office for Synthetic Marijuana Pharmaceuticals | Teen Facing 26 Years for First-Time Marijuana Offense Sentenced to Two | Marc Mauer Testimony on Comparative International Rates of Incarceration | The Reformer's Calendar
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