24 Jun 20

NY Penal Law § 220.72: Criminal possession of precursors of methamphetamine

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Last Updated on: 21st August 2023, 03:22 am

NY Penal Law § 220.72: Criminal possession of precursors of methamphetamine

In New York, it is against the law to unlawfully manufacture methamphetamine, or meth. In an effort to crack down on such activity, under New York Penal Code § 220.72, it is also against the law to be in possession of the precursors or ingredients required to make methamphetamine. Some examples of precursors of methamphetamine include acetone, toluene, lithium, hydrochloric acid, red phosphorus, pseudoephedrine, sodium hydroxide, and sulfuric acid. Most of these materials can be found or derived from common household products and can be easily and legally purchased at a local grocery or big box store.

One Example

On the basis of a tip the police received, they executed a search warrant on a residence that allegedly was used as a methamphetamine laboratory (a meth lab). In the course of the search, the police officers did not find any meth in the home, but did find the following:

Based on what they found, the police arrested the woman who was renting the home. In an unexpected turn of events, the prosecutor declined to prosecute her due to the fact that while each of the items seized could be used to make meth, they also could each be used for other purposes. Add to that the fact that the police did not gather any evidence that the items were indeed intended for use in manufacturing meth, and the charge would not have had any merit.

Offenses that are Related

Criminal possession of methamphetamine manufacturing material in the second degree: New York Penal Law § 220.70

Unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine in the second degree: New York Penal Code § 220.74

Unlawful manufacture of methamphetamine in the first degree: New York Penal Code § 220.75

New York Penal Law § 220.71

New York Penal Law § 220.73

Possible Defenses

Should you be charged with the drug crime of criminal possession of precursors of methamphetamine, you may be able to successfully argue that there is an innocuous reason for possessing such ingredients. An alternative way to respond to the charge is to argue that the search that revealed the ingredients was unlawful. Pursuant to the law, in order to conduct a search, whether it is a search of your car, apartment or office, the police must demonstrate that they had probable cause to do so. If it is determined that the search was unlawful, anything which the search produced, including illicit drugs, would be inadmissible in court and your case would likely be dismissed.

The Sentence

Due to the fact that criminal possession of precursors of methamphetamine is categorized as a Class E felony, if you are convicted, the maximum possible prison sentence that you could face is 4 years. Your sentence may also include a fine as well as a 5 year probation term. For the purpose of determining your sentence, the judge will take several factors into consideration. These factors include the crime committed, the details of the crime, your criminal history and your personal background.

Charges associated with methamphetamine sale and distribution

Charges associated with methamphetamine sale and distribution are unique from many other illegal controlled substances. The reason connects to how “meth” may be produced in a lab in any number of domestic locations. The utilization of various chemical precursors allows those working in the lab to actually create methamphetamines. Ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, two legal substances sold in drug stores, remain major precursors to the production of the illegal drug. This is why the purchase of ephedrine or pseudoephedrine requires a photo ID.

Possession of chemicals with the intent to use them to produce methamphetamines is a crime. In New York, Penal Code 220.72 addresses the issue under the offense “Criminal possession of precursors of methamphetamine.

The Possession of Precursors and Chemicals

Under this very clear statute, a person must possess both the precursors and “a chemical reagent.” The aforementioned drugs ephedrine and pseudoephedrine ranks as precursors along with any “salt, isomer or salt of an isomer of such substances.” Precursors must be combined with certain chemicals in order to produce meth. Methylamine, hydrochloric acid, and isopropanol are chemicals with an association to making methamphetamine.

If law enforcement were to discover both precursors and chemical reagents “at the same time,” those in possession could – and surely would – be charged with possession. The words “at the same time” must not be discounted. Arresting someone for possession of a product with ephedrine without any chemicals to connect the possession with methamphetamine manufacturing might mean the possession charge ends up being a weak one. A competent defense attorney would make a judgment call on the merit or lack of merit of the evidence central to a possession charge.

The Issue of Intent

Intent plays a role in whether a person actually would be guilty under this statute. The law notes a person must maintain an intent to use the chemical and the precursors to manufacture methamphetamine or know someone else intends to manufacture the drug. Proving intent probably would not be too difficult if a significant amount of chemicals and precursors were discovered in a hidden lab. The issue of intent could be brought up in a defense to the charges when an arrest occurs under more ambiguous circumstances.

The charges definitely are serious ones. Any person charged with “criminal possession of precursors of methamphetamine” faces a possible conviction under the category of a Class E felony.

Class E Felony Penalties

New York Penal Code 220.72 ranks as a non-violent Class E felony. Therefore, the penalties won’t be as severe as becomes the case with a violent felony. Even so, possession of meth precursors comes with significant potential penalties since the crime connects with the illegal manufacturing and distribution of a dangerous and addictive substance.

As far as penalties and sentencing go, non-violent Class E felony could very well only face probation. A person may also face a minimum of 1 1/3 years to 4 years in prison depending on previous conviction records. A $5,000 fine or double what the person earned from the commission of a crime may be levied.

In addition to providing a solid defense, a criminal defense attorney might be able to negotiate lenient sentencing in the event of a conviction. Perhaps a reasonable plea bargain agreement may be reached. The key here is anyone charged with this crime should hire experienced counsel.