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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. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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