Judges disagree on chemical possession charge

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A panel of Indiana Court of Appeal judges disagreed as to whether a defendant who stole anhydrous ammonia with the intent of selling it to a third party in the future to make methamphetamine, but who never actually sold the chemical, could be charged with possession with intent to manufacture methamphetamine.

The majority of judges said no and affirmed the trial court grant of Dustin Prater's motion to correct error and vacation his conviction of illegal possession of anhydrous ammonia in State of Indiana v. Dustin Prater, No. 08A02-0904-CR-309. Judge Cale Bradford dissented because he believed anyone who possess the chemical for purposes of manufacturing methamphetamine, even if they intend for someone else to make it, is covered under Indiana Code Section 35-48-4-14.5(c).

I.C. Section 35-48-4-14.5(c) requires an individual in possession of anhydrous ammonia have the personal "intent to manufacture methamphetamine or amphetamine" in order to commit a Class D felony under that statute. Prater was charged and convicted under this statute.

The majority read the statute to mean the person who possesses the chemical must also personally have the intent to use the anhydrous ammonia to manufacture methamphetamine to be charged under subsection (c).

"Here, it is clear that the General Assembly sought a balance between not subjecting citizens who merely possess anhydrous ammonia to possible prosecution while, at the same time, seeking to prohibit the nefarious uses of that chemical," wrote Judge Edward Najam for the majority.

The majority found their reading of subsection (c) to be supported by subsection (g) of the statute, which says it is not the mere possession of the chemical that is criminal but the sale, transfer, distribution, or furnishing of it to another person with the knowledge or intent that the recipient will use the chemical "regent or precursor to manufacture" methamphetamine.

If the General Assembly had intended that mere possession of anhydrous ammonia is a crime, it wouldn't have included the words "with the intent to manufacture" in the statute, wrote Judge Najam. The General Assembly could have included the language "intend to," but did not.

Judge Bradford wrote in his dissent that he couldn't conclude that a person whose task it is to collect the chemical to make methamphetamine is somehow immunized from criminal liability if he doesn't personally involve himself in the manufacturing process.

"Given the obvious intent of the General Assembly to criminalize both the possession and the sale or transfer of ammonia for methamphetamine purposes, I am unwilling to permit Prater's actions to fall through the cracks," he wrote.

Judge Bradford would reverse the grant of Prater's motion to correct error and the vacation of his sentence.


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  1. I think the cops are doing a great job locking up criminals. The Murder rates in the inner cities are skyrocketing and you think that too any people are being incarcerated. Maybe we need to lock up more of them. We have the ACLU, BLM, NAACP, Civil right Division of the DOJ, the innocent Project etc. We have court system with an appeal process that can go on for years, with attorneys supplied by the government. I'm confused as to how that translates into the idea that the defendants are not being represented properly. Maybe the attorneys need to do more Pro-Bono work

  2. We do not have 10% of our population (which would mean about 32 million) incarcerated. It's closer to 2%.

  3. If a class action suit or other manner of retribution is possible, count me in. I have email and voicemail from the man. He colluded with opposing counsel, I am certain. My case was damaged so severely it nearly lost me everything and I am still paying dearly.

  4. There's probably a lot of blame that can be cast around for Indiana Tech's abysmal bar passage rate this last February. The folks who decided that Indiana, a state with roughly 16,000 to 18,000 attorneys, needs a fifth law school need to question the motives that drove their support of this project. Others, who have been "strong supporters" of the law school, should likewise ask themselves why they believe this institution should be supported. Is it because it fills some real need in the state? Or is it, instead, nothing more than a resume builder for those who teach there part-time? And others who make excuses for the students' poor performance, especially those who offer nothing more than conspiracy theories to back up their claims--who are they helping? What evidence do they have to support their posturing? Ultimately, though, like most everything in life, whether one succeeds or fails is entirely within one's own hands. At least one student from Indiana Tech proved this when he/she took and passed the February bar. A second Indiana Tech student proved this when they took the bar in another state and passed. As for the remaining 9 who took the bar and didn't pass (apparently, one of the students successfully appealed his/her original score), it's now up to them (and nobody else) to ensure that they pass on their second attempt. These folks should feel no shame; many currently successful practicing attorneys failed the bar exam on their first try. These same attorneys picked themselves up, dusted themselves off, and got back to the rigorous study needed to ensure they would pass on their second go 'round. This is what the Indiana Tech students who didn't pass the first time need to do. Of course, none of this answers such questions as whether Indiana Tech should be accredited by the ABA, whether the school should keep its doors open, or, most importantly, whether it should have even opened its doors in the first place. Those who promoted the idea of a fifth law school in Indiana need to do a lot of soul-searching regarding their decisions. These same people should never be allowed, again, to have a say about the future of legal education in this state or anywhere else. Indiana already has four law schools. That's probably one more than it really needs. But it's more than enough.

  5. This man Steve Hubbard goes on any online post or forum he can find and tries to push his company. He said court reporters would be obsolete a few years ago, yet here we are. How does he have time to search out every single post about court reporters and even spy in private court reporting forums if his company is so successful???? Dude, get a life. And back to what this post was about, I agree that some national firms cause a huge problem.