UPDATED: June 19, 2018
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Manufacturing charges, or intent to manufacture controlled substances or street drugs, are serious crimes. A defendant charged with manufacturing should understand the nature of the charges, the potential penalties and sentences, and the possible defenses for a manufacturing charge.
Drug Manufacturing Charges
What constitutes a manufacturing charge depends on how a state defines the charge. For instance, Tennessee breaks manufacturing and distribution into two separate charges. Manufacturing charges cover the actual manufacture and production of a controlled substance, while distribution charges are more concerned with the movement or delivery of a controlled substance. Texas, on the other hand, lumps the two charges together under the title of manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance.
Because of the serious nature of the crimes, it is always best for a defendant to consult with a drug lawyer as soon as possible when charged with drug manufacturing type charges.
Most manufacturing charges cover the actual production of a controlled substance. Using easily available online recipes and techniques, some defendants have tried to brew their own homemade batches of methamphetamine, a common street drug. Unlike beer or wine, which can be manufactured at home for personal use, the manufacture of methamphetamine for personal use is a felony.
Even though the actual manufacture of methamphetamine, or meth, is the most common reason for a manufacturing charge, some states do not limit a manufacturing charge to a completed product. These states not only prohibit the manufacture of a controlled substance, but also prohibit the possession of certain items and chemicals with the intent of manufacturing methamphetamine. A defendant who possesses ingredients used to make meth can be charged and punished the same as someone who actually completed the production process. Ingredients which could result in a charge include: anhydrous ammonia, pseudoephedrine, lithium batteries, and foil, all of which are fairly common household items, but found together for a prohibited intent can lead to a felony charge.
Penalties for Drug Manufacturing
Manufacturing charges carry a higher range of punishments than simple possession charges, but each state sets its own punishment guidelines. In Tennessee, punishment for manufacturing one gram or more of methamphetamine ranges from eight to 30 years in prison, with an optional fine of up to $25,000.00. In Texas, the punishment increases with the amount produced. For example, the manufacture of between one and four grams of meth could lead to a sentence of two to 20 years in a state prison, while the manufacture of 400 plus grams of meth could result in a minimum sentence of 15 years up to 99 years, or life, in prison.
Each state has established basic sentencing guidelines, which can be enhanced by a number of other factors. One is where the offense took place. If a defendant manufactures meth or other controlled substance near a school or a child, the sentence could be enhanced. Some states will deny early parole for defendants who manufacture meth and possess a firearm. In Texas, for example, a defendant convicted of manufacturing a controlled substance might only be required to complete a quarter of the sentence, but a defendant who possessed a deadly weapon, like a firearm, would have to complete half of the sentences before becoming eligible for parole, effectively doubling the sentence. Understanding the nature of a manufacturing charge and punishment ranges can affect a defendant’s defensive strategy.
Defenses to Drug Manufacturing Charges
Other than the usual defenses for any possession charge, a defendant charged with manufacturing a controlled substance who is caught with a completed product may not have much of a defense. In such a situation, the best strategy may be to look for ways to mitigate the punishment. For example, a defendant who can show that the production was only for personal use could face a lower sentence. Other factors, like the absence of a child, also can lead to a lower sentence.
A defendant who is charged only with possessing certain chemicals needed to produce a controlled substance usually looks for ways to negate the intent to produce. For example, a defendant might admit possessing ingredients, like the anhydrous ammonia, but demonstrate a legitimate purpose for doing so. If a defendant can show the substance was not possessed with the intention of making meth, then a judge or jury could find the defendant not guilty of a manufacturing charge.
Many defendants have argued that the economy or the job market created the need to manufacture and distribute controlled substances but failed to recognize that manufacturing a controlled substance can have a devastating effect on personal finances. Beyond paying a fine, imprisonment without income, and paying for a defense attorney, some states authorize seizure of property or proceeds of drug related crimes—separate and apart from the criminal charges. This means that law enforcement can seize the car used to carry ingredients and, potentially, the house where the controlled substance was manufactured. Even though manufacturing methamphetamine may look like a lucrative opportunity, a drug manufacturing conviction can be far more costly than conviction on other criminal charges.