Possession of Methamphetamine

Possession of methamphetamine, otherwise known as meth, crystal, speed or ice, has harsh consequences in both state and federal law. While possession of a small amount of meth can lead to simple possession charges, possession of a larger amount can lead to a charge of possession with intent to distribute, which can mean even stiffer penalties. 

In some states, a person arrested for possession of precursor chemicals/ingredients, or meth paraphernalia, but no meth, may still be charged for possession of methamphetamines. Precursor chemicals are any over-the-counter drugs or chemicals used in the production of meth. Among others, this includes ephedrine, methylamine, phenyl-2-propanone, hydriodic acid, and hydrogen gas. Meth paraphernalia includes implements used to smoke, sniff, or shoot the drug, as well as instruments used to make, weigh, or package the drug. 

In 2005, the federal government passed the Methamphetamine Epidemic Act as part of the government’s war on drugs. The act heightened penalties for meth possession, as well as placing stiff restrictions on legal uses of meth. States have also recognized the growing epidemic of meth use, and as a result, some have followed the federal government in implementing heightened penalties for meth possession convictions.

Defenses to Meth Possession Charges

Defenses to possession of methamphetamine charges include challenging the intent of the individual charged; the sufficiency of the evidence and/or the police testimony; as well as the the constitutionality of the stop, search, or interrogation. Another defense to possession of methamphetamine is that it was legally prescribed by a healthcare provider.

To be convicted of possession of meth, the individual must have intended to possess the drugs. This necessary element protects innocent bystanders who may unknowingly be living with a meth user, or have had the drug planted on them. For example, the simple presence of meth in a home does not necessarily implicate every individual that resides in the home. To prove the possession charges, the prosecutor will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the individual charged had the intent to possess the meth found in the home. The person charged with possession can defend against the charge by showing that he did not intend to possess the meth found in the home.

Challenging the constitutionality of the meth possession charge can be used in cases where the police perform a warrantless search without having probable cause. In these situations it may be possible to get the evidence of the search suppressed in court. Likewise, if the police arrest an individual for meth possession after making an illegal traffic stop, that is, they pull the individual over for an insufficient reason, this also may be a defense to the possession charges. 

Penalties for Meth Possession

Penalties for methamphetamine possession will vary depending on whether the arresting agency is state or federal; the amount of the drug in possession; and the individual's prior criminal record. Possession of a large amount of methamphetamine can raise a simple possession charge to a possession with intent to distribute charge, which can dramatically increase penalties.

Possession of methamphetamines is generally charged as a felony, but laws regarding penalties for meth possession can vary widely amongst states. Some states offer sentence-alternatives to prison, such as drug courts and drug-treatment centers, while others do not. Penalties will also depend on how many prior drug-related offenses the individual has, as well as the individual's overall criminal record. However, methamphetamine possession is generally always treated as a felony, which can amount to prison time, hefty fines, and/or felony probation

Federal law requires a minimum prison sentence of 5 years for possession of any amount over 5 grams, and a maximum sentence of 40 years. If convicted of possession of 50 grams or over, the mandatory minimum sentence is 10 years, and the maximum is life. Fines can range anywhere from tens of thousands of dollars, to millions of dollars. Because meth is believed to be an extremely dangerous drug, there will generally always be a jail sentence as a result of a federal possession conviction, no matter how small the amount of the drug is actually possessed.   

Penalties will increase in both state and federal courts if the individual charged with meth possession is arrested around children, or a school zone (including the school property or a school bus). A person arrested for meth possession around children may also get charged with child abuse. If the individual is arrested for possession of meth in a school zone, it is generally not a defense if the person did not know he was in a school zone. Penalties may also be increased in some states for possession near public housing or a public park. Moreover, because the production of methamphetamine is toxic, even simple possession may implicate some states’ environmental laws as well, which can heighten penalties.