The North Carolina General Assembly is considering a bill right now that will add a new drug crime and increase sentences for existing drug crimes under certain circumstances. House Bill 29, which relates specifically to methamphetamine, has cleared the House and is awaiting debate by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
If the law passes, it will be a Class H felony for anyone in the state to possess any form of pseudoephedrine if the person’s criminal record includes a conviction for possession or manufacture of meth. The prior conviction can be for any of a number of existing meth crimes, from mere possession to trafficking. Currently, the average minimum sentence for manufacturing meth is 65 months. Other H felony crimes include habitual misdemeanor assault and larceny (theft) of goods worth more than $1,000.
The bill would also increase prison time for anyone convicted of manufacturing methamphetamine if certain other people are affected. The author of the bill explained that the sentence increases speak to the health dangers inherent in the meth manufacturing process itself. While a home may be cleaned up after contamination, dangerous levels of toxins can remain. And, in places like hotel rooms, where authorities have busted one-pot meth labs, the regulations are lax when it comes to re-testing for contamination; nor are “acceptable” levels well-defined, the bill’s author continued.
To that end, the bill defines three classes of potential victims and adds at least two years to the minimum sentence. The enhanced penalties apply if a child 18 or under or an elderly or disabled person lives or is present on the premises when the crime is committed or if an emergency responder is injured as a result of the lab. Depending on how many different categories of victims are involved, the minimum sentence would increase to anywhere from about 7.5 years to 11.5 years.
We’ll continue this in our next post.
General Assembly of North Carolina, Session 2013, “Legislative Incarceration Fiscal Note (G.S. 120-36.7) – House Bill 29 (First Edition) 1,” Feb. 18, 2013
Elkin Tribune, “Stevens reacts to Elkin meth lab,” Anthony Gonzalez, March 10, 2013
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