Monday, May 24, 2010

Bong Water Case: The Amendment

Following a highly divided 4-3 Supreme Court decision on October 22, 2009, that drew a very sharp dissent; the legislature of the State of Minnesota amended the drug possession statutes to try to eliminate the perverse results that came from that decision.

In the case in question, State v. Peck, the defendant was charged with a first degree controlled substance crime (30 year in prison maximum) based on the fact that the police found a water pipe (bong) that had 37.17 grams of water (1.3 fl.oz) which contained traces of methamphetamine. The district court dismissed the charge, and the Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the district court; however the Supreme Court overturned the lower courts and ruled that the first degree controlled substance crime, which states that a person is guilty if they unlawfully possesses one or more mixtures of a total weight of 25 grams of methamphetamine, applied in this case and the 37 gram mixture of water and trace meth that the Defendant possessed would allow the State to charge her with first degree possession.

The new statutory amendment partially remedies this situation by stating that the weight of the fluid used in a water pipe may not be considered in measuring the weight of a mixture, except in cases where the mixture contains 4 or more fluid ounces of fluid. This amendment is very narrow and seems designed solely for this case. because it does not cover any situation in which the weight of the water may be more than 4 ounces (literally 8 tablespoons)

This is better than nothing I suppose, however because of the Peck ruling and the fact that in the criminal statutes, "mixture" continues to mean a preparation, compound, mixture, or substance containing a controlled substance regardless of purity, one is still bound to encounter scenarios that go counter to common sense. Here's one that is not even that far fetched: You are the homeowner decide to have a party and invite some friends, who invite their friends. You have a pool in the back yard and some people decide to jump in the water with their clothes on and all, only they forgot they had meth in their pockets and while they swim the meth dissolves in the pool water. The police gets called because the party is getting loud, and they decide the test the pool water, which now contains traces of meth. Because the purity of the mixture does not matter, you are now the possessor of meth in the amount of the weight of the whole pool water, which for a small 15,000 gallon pool equals 62 tons of meth. And in case you are wondering that is a minimum of 86 months in prison.

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