Pubdate: Thu, 14 Jun 2001
Source: Reno Gazette-Journal (NV)
Copyright: 2001 Reno Gazette-Journal
Author: Mike Henderson
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


A Washoe District Court judge has ruled that a law charging a couple
with possession of methamphetamine ingredients is unconstitutional
because it is vague and would outlaw such items as matches and cold

Law enforcement authorities said Wednesday that Judge Jim Hardesty's
ruling will not hamper efforts to stem methamphetamine sales.

"As far as the Consolidated Narcotics Unit is concerned, it's business
as usual," said Reno police Lt. Doug Cardwell, who heads the multiagency
Consolidated Narcotics Unit.

"There are usually several other charges that can apply in the case of a
methamphetamine lab. It's up to the district attorney's office to decide
which ones are the best."

Washoe County District Attorney Richard Gammick said his office will
appeal the ruling, possibly the first such decision in the state on the
1999 law. Hardesty's ruling has no impact on other cases unless it is
upheld by the Nevada Supreme Court, Gammick said.

The law Hardesty struck down prohibits possession of a majority of the
ingredients used to manufacture methamphetamine. Such material as
bottled gas, cold remedies, steel wool, matchbooks and lye can be used
to make methamphetamine.

Possession of those items theoretically is illegal, said lawyer Marc
Picker, who challenged the constitutionality with lawyer Walter Fey.

In the cases before Hardesty, someone had told police that Kit Jerome
Burdg had been making methamphetamine, according to Fey. Police searched
the couple's home and an outbuilding, finding material they contend
could be used to make methamphetamine, Fey said.

Burdg remains in custody, but his wife, Alice Mae Burdg, has been
released pending trial on the charge, the lawyers said.

Charges against the couple remain in place pending the appeal, Gammick

"This shows what happens when you pass statutes in a hurried fashion in
an attempt to stem crime but you don't give any second thought to the
ramifications of what you're passing," Picker said. "You end up with a
statute that violates both the U.S. and Nevada constitutions."

Hardesty found the law is "void for vagueness." The law also does not
require proof that someone intended to use those items to make the drug,
the judge said.

"The statute, as it stands, without any element of intent to
manufacture, subjects many law-abiding Nevadans to criminal prosecution
simply because they have in their homes matches and cold medicine,"
Hardesty wrote. "This cannot be what the Legislature meant to do."
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