Methamphetamine is a controlled substance found in powder and pill forms. It can be smoked, snorted, injected, or ingested and has severe physical and mental effects on the body. Meth carries a high risk of overdose, as well as the possibility of grave physical injury due to manufacturing-process explosions and fires. For these reasons, and due to the serious nature of crimes associated with its manufacturing, use, and sale, meth offenses are aggressively charged and prosecuted in the state of Nebraska and across the nation.
In an attempt to curb a sharp increase in fatal overdoses in the early 2000s, the federal government passed the Methamphetamine Epidemic Act in 2005, which placed stiff restrictions on crystal meth use and increased the severity of penalties for possessing it. Nebraska followed the federal government’s lead, implementing the same harsh penalties for meth possession at the state level. Being caught with even small amounts of methamphetamine can lead to serious criminal charges.
Drug charges are among the most serious allegations that can be leveraged against a person in the United States. An arrest for meth-related offenses can impact an individual’s employment and child custody, and lead to a loss of civil liberties, driving privileges, and freedom. The attorneys at Berry Law have the experience you need to understand the charges against you. They can also advise you of your defense options.
An attorney may be able to negotiate with prosecutors for a reduction to charges that carry lesser penalties, or to secure an agreement to work within the National Safety Council’s Nebraska Diversion Program for first-time offenders who are accused of simple possession. The program allows individuals charged with criminal offenses to avoid having a criminal conviction on their record.
What is a Controlled Substance and Why is Possessing Methamphetamines a Felony?
A controlled substance is any chemical, chemical compound, or other drug or ingredient that state or federal laws have restricted by limiting who can prescribe, use, possess, manufacture or transport them. Controlled substances can be used legally or unlawfully.
For example, prescription narcotics such as morphine are legal when prescribed by a licensed prover, obtained from a pharmacy, and used by the intended patient for the intended purpose. The government maintains tight control and restrictions over these types of drugs.
Beyond simple possession, selling a controlled substance like meth is a state-level crime as well as a federal offense. When an individual is found in possession of particularly large quantities of meth, they may face charges of manufacturing as well. Even possessing over-the-counter drugs or chemicals used to produce meth, sometimes known as precursor chemicals or ingredients, can result in manufacturing charges. These include ephedrine, methylamine, penyl-2-propane, hydriodic acid, and hydrogen gas.
Manufacturing or distributing exceptionally hazardous drugs like methamphetamines is a Class II felony, which can result in up to 50 years imprisonment. Evidence of manufacturing meth is very serious because it signals to law enforcement that there was an intent to distribute to others.
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What Are the Penalties for Methamphetamine Charges in Omaha?
Nebraska Revised Statute 28-416 outlines the charges and penalties for possession of a controlled substance in the state. The statute says that it’s unlawful for any person to knowingly or intentionally manufacture, distribute, or possess meth with the intention of manufacturing, distributing, delivering or dispensing it to others.
The severity of the charges and penalties in drug-related cases hinges on several factors, including:
- the type of drug in question
- whether the accused individual prepared or manufactured the drugs themselves
- the amount of drugs present
- whether the drugs were sold to minors
- the location where the drug offense allegedly occurred
- number of prior convictions
A conviction for a drug-related crime can lead to incarceration, fines, and probation. Prison sentences of 40 years for a first offense and up to life sentences for repeat offenders are not uncommon. Felony drug convictions can also carry fines of as much as $250,000 per offense.
Simple possession of meth in any amount is a Class IV felony, punishable by a maximum of two years in prison, 12 months post-release supervision and a $10,000 fine. Other crimes involving methamphetamines and controlled substances are typically penalized according to the weight of the drugs found:
- Possession with intent to deliver less than 10 grams of meth is a Class II felony, subject to a minimum sentence of one year and a maximum sentence of 50 years imprisonment.
- Distribution or intended sale of methamphetamines weighing between 10-28 grams is a Class ID felony with a mandatory minimum three year or maximum 50 year sentence.
- Distribution or intent to sell between 28-140 grams is a Class IC felony, which invokes a minimum five years and up to 50 years.
- Distribution or intended sale of more than 140 grams of meth is a Class IB felony with a minimum 20 years and maximum sentence of life imprisonment under sentencing guidelines.
Persons charged with drug-related crimes may also be required to attend and successfully complete treatment and counseling on drug abuse provided by a program authorized under the Nebraska Behavioral Health Services Act or another licensed drug treatment facility.
Are There Mitigating Factors That Could Affect Sentencing for Possession of Meth?
Certain scenarios can increase the severity of sentencing guidelines judges must work within, including cases where a minor is involved. An adult over 18 who knowingly and intentionally manufactures, distributes, delivers, dispenses, or possesses methamphetamines with the intent to manufacture, distribute, deliver, or dispense it to a person under 18 can be charged with the next higher penalty classification.
Additionally, higher penalty classifications apply when a meth-related crime occurs in, on, or within 1,000 feet of a public or private elementary school, vocational, or secondary school, community college, public or private college, junior college, university, or playground. Public and private youth centers, public swimming pools, and video arcade facilities fall under these guidelines as well.
It is also illegal to employ, hire, use, cause, persuade, coax, induce entice, seduce, or otherwise coerce a minor to manufacture, transport, distribute, carry, deliver, dispense, prepare for delivery, or possess with the intention to sell methamphetamines. Charges of this nature that involve a minor are charged under the next higher penalty, and not knowing an individual’s age is not a defense in the eyes of law.
Individuals who are in possession of a firearm at the time that they are charged with a drug-related crime can also face charges of the next higher penalty, as well as the inability to legally carry firearms in the future.
When a defendant is found to be in possession of money used or intended to be used in a drug transaction, he or she is charged as if they were in possession of a controlled substance, even if a transaction has not yet occurred. When it comes to illicit drugs, it’s illegal to barter, give away, manufacture, distribute, deliver, exchange or even offer to do any of those things.
Simply bringing another person to meet a third party with the intention of allowing them to engage in the sale of a controlled substance is enough to charge a defendant with the sale of a controlled substance. A transaction is not necessary for conviction.
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What Defenses are Commonly Used in Methamphetamine Drug Cases?
If you’re facing charges of methamphetamine possession, distribution, or manufacturing, consult a criminal defense attorney at Berry Law right away. An experienced attorney can help you understand the nature of the charges against you, the weight of the evidence supporting those charges, and possible defense strategies. Common defenses used to fight felony drug charges include:
Fourth Amendment Violations
Meth charges in Nebraska have frequently stemmed from Interstate-80 drug stops. Many drug-related arrests are a result of unlawful traffic stops or vehicle profiling that leads to illegal search and seizure.
A defense attorney may challenge whether a client’s Fourth Amendment rights were violated during the traffic stop. If a court finds that the accused was subjected to an unlawful traffic stop, any evidence found during that stop may be suppressed in court or charges dropped altogether.
If a criminal defense attorney can show that the drugs in question were for the defendant’s own personal use, and not for distribution to others, a court may order the defendant into a substance abuse treatment program instead of sentencing him or her to prison.
The burden of proof is on the prosecution to show that an individual accused of drug charges actually intended to possess the drug in question. This protects innocent bystanders who may not have been aware that controlled substances were present in a car they were riding in or in a house where they had been staying.
Abuse of Power
Police abuse of power and mistakes occur frequently in drug-related arrests. While law enforcement is permitted to lie in drug cases when promising leniency or using undercover agents, other tactics sometimes employed are not permissible, including unauthorized surveillance, planting evidence, or pressuring suspects and witnesses without counsel present. Statements and evidence gathered under these circumstances may be suppressed in court. Without evidence, charges are sometimes dropped entirely.
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