Pubdate: Wed, 09 Aug 2006
Source: Knoxville News-Sentinel (TN)
Copyright: 2006 The Knoxville News-Sentinel Co.
Author: Bill Poovey, Associated Press Writer
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine)


CHATTANOOGA, Tenn.  - A prosecutor says the state will appeal a 
judge's decision to dismiss methamphetamine charges against 30 people 
after ruling that prosecutors misinterpreted a 1-year-old Tennessee law.

David McGovern, an assistant district attorney general for the 12th 
Judicial District, said the Aug. 3 ruling by Circuit Judge Thomas W. 
Graham would be challenged. McGovern said the Tennessee attorney 
general's office was preparing the notice of appeal.

The 2005 law restricts purchases of cold and allergy tablets that 
contain pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient in making the addictive 
stimulant, as well as other common products such as coffee filters or 
matches if they are knowingly purchased to make methamphetamine.

State law limits purchases to no more than 9 grams of pseudoephedrine 
in any 30-day period and the judge said in his Thursday ruling that 
prosecutors could not use multiple purchases of pseudoephedrine to 
build their cases.

The 30 defendants were charged after making multiple buys during a 
30-day period that totaled more than 9 grams, records show.

Thomas said it was "clear that since none of the purchases in these 
cases exceeded 9 grams, the state simply cannot legally make a 
promotion case as to any of these defendants." His decision said the 
law must be applied to a single purchase to withstand a 
constitutional challenge for vagueness.

McGovern said prosecutors disagree and believe the law applies to the 
"aggregate amount. We think it reads a little broader." He said the 
appeal would be filed in the next few days.

McGovern said if the appeals court reverses the judge, the cases 
would continue.

Marion County investigators arrested more than 80 people in April on 
charges of promoting methamphetamine manufacture after collecting 
pharmacy records of pseudoephedrine transactions over a two-month 
period. The purchase records were compared to lists of people 
previously arrested for manufacturing methamphetamine.

Phil Condra, a public defender, told Graham in a June hearing that 
the vagueness of the law puts innocent consumers in jeopardy because 
it allows law officers too much discretion in making arrests. He said 
it would allow arrests for buying other products used to make meth.

Preston Shipp, an assistant Tennessee attorney general, said in a 
previous court filing that there was "no possibility of conviction of 
an innocent person who purchases, as the defendant suggests, two 
packages of coffee filters, with neither knowledge that it will be 
used to produce methamphetamine nor reckless disregard of its intended use."
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