Criminal lawyer Thomas Gallagher writes about a case, Minnesota v. Peck, decided by his state’s Supreme Court which overruled a trial court’s determination that including the bong water as a “mixture” used to calculate the weight of methamphetamine possessed by a defendant would be “unjust”.
The difference in the weight of the meth alone vs. the weight including the bong water (approximately 37 grams) raised the offense to a first degree drug felony punishable by a maximum of 30 years, and if I have my Minnesota law right, and I very well might not, a minimum sentence of 87 months, or 7 years and 3 months. Assume the defendant would be probation eligible otherwise, and you Yankee lawyers can write in to tell me I’m wrong.
Let’s also ignore why there would be meth residue in a bong; the opinion doesn’t make it clear, probably because there is no good reason for it. Of course, that doesn’t stop the arresting officer from hazarding a guess at the hearing:
When asked why a narcotics user would keep bong water, Rauenhorst replied, “for future use . . . either drinking it or shooting it in the veins.”
Yeah, right. And college freshman leave empty pizza boxes scattered all over their apartment because they plan on doing a science project in the future on the effects of pepperoni stains on cardboard. Dopers make most of their decisions because they are really concerned about what’s going to happen tomorrow. They’re known for making a lot of plans for the future. No chance the defendant just passed out on the couch, leaving the bong on the coffee table while she slept it off, eh officer?
This defeats the legislative purpose of treating larger quantities more harshly. Worse – it makes no sense. It is absurd.
What is a bong? It is a water pipe. A water pipe, such as a bong, can be used to smoke tobacco, marijuana, methamphetamine (as in the Peck case), or anything that can be smoked. Smokers view the water which has been used to filter and cool the smoke as something disgusting, not unlike a used cigarette filter, to be discarded – sooner or later. The used water is not commonly used for any other purpose.
He notes that a user might accidently dissolve one tenth of a gram of meth in twenty six grams of water and end up with a 30 year sentence. I am not impressed. Sounds like those Minnesotan legislators are soft on crime to me. Why just the other day, Austin Defender pointed us to a similar Texas case:
In Ex parte Kinnett, for example, a guy dumped his meth in the toilet. The cops scooped the water out, weighed it, and used the weight of the toilet water as the basis for his prosecution. Since they scooped more than 600 grams of water out of the toilet, that put him over the limit for a 1st degree felony.
The jury gave him 85 years in prison. (Along with a $250,000 fine – more, I suspect than his trailer was worth.) The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals was just fine with that. This is, the Court said, what the legislature intended.
For what it’s worth, the actual amount of meth was 0.0274 grams, for a toilet-water to methamphetamine ratio of 24,197:1.
Drug War logic and reasoning is faulty everywhere, but the sentences are bigger in Texas.