The Legal Responses To Manufacture And Misuse Of Methamphetamines

The defendants have violated three kinds of laws. First, and most serious, they have manufactured methamphetamine. This is a felony crime. To bring the defendants to trial, they must be indicted, and then tried before a jury. If convicted, they face imprisonment for several years. (Loewy; LaFave & Israel) Slightly less serious are the environmental consequences of their acts. Methamphetamine waste contains lead or mercury, both extremely hazardous materials. By dumping the waste into flower beds, these defendants have violated environmental protection statutes.

While these can be handled as criminal matters, the government tends to deal with these matters in quasi-criminal actions, such as forfeiture or restitutionary proceedings. These actions involve much less burden on the prosecution, because they avoid the “proof beyond reasonable doubt” standard of purely criminal actions, while stripping the defendant of the property involved, such as his home. The goal is to compel the defendant to pay for the cost of an environmental cleanup, which can be extremely expensive. (Hickok)

The disorderly conduct in which the defendant’s engaged is typically dealt with in jsutice courts, which are conducted on a less formal basis than the circuit courts of the state. These courts typically handle violations of various municipal ordinances, and their sanctions largely result in fines rather than even sentences to the county jail. In this case, there is no point in trying to prosecute the defendants for all of these offenses. First, they cannot be prosecuted in a single trial because of the concept of misjoinder of offenses.

Where a defendant stands accused of a serious offense, such as manufacturing methamphetamines, it is improper to simultaneously charge him with a trivial offense because of the inherent prejudice of the major charge. (Fed. R. Crim. Pro. 8) Further, even if the defendants waived this issue, the court cannot impose a longer sentence because of the overlapping nature of the offenses. All sentences would be concurrent, so that only the longest sentence, the sentence for the methamphetamine manufacturing would be effective.

Given this, prosecutorial efficiency calls for the defendants to be tried only for the manufacturing offense. In a separate, civil proceeding, the prosecutor can seize their home through forfeiture proceeding. SOURCES USED: Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, Rule 8. Hickok, Harold. Introduction to Environmental Law. (Albany, New York: Delmar Publishers. 1996). LaFave, Wayne, Jerold Israel, & Nancy King. Criminal Procedure (Eagan, Minn. : Thomson/West Publishing, 1999). Loewy, Arnold H. Criminal Law. 3d ed. (St. Paul, Minn. : Thomson/West Publishing, 2003)