Maine Drug Trafficking Law: Manufacturing Methamphetamine

Manufacturing drugs like methamphetamine is drug trafficking in MaineA Maine drug trafficking attorney must sometimes deal with the most fundamental question: is this actually drug trafficking? In cases where the defendant is charged with manufacturing methamphetamine or synthesizing other drugs, this can be the key issue.

Until recently, Maine drug trafficking law allowed a conviction if the defendant started a process which could lead to production of a scheduled drug. Now, Maine’s Supreme Court has held that trafficking by manufacturing requires proof the end product was produced.

Elements of Drug Trafficking in Maine

Every crime has elements, facts the prosecution must prove in order to prove the offense. The elements of drug trafficking in Maine are listed below. As with any crime, every element must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt.

To be guilty of Drug Trafficking in Maine (17-A §1103) a person must:

  1. Intentionally or knowingly
  2. Traffic in
  3. What the person knows or believes to be a scheduled drug
  4. Which is in fact a scheduled drug
  • Trafficking in schedule W drugs is a class B felony
  • Trafficking in schedule X drugs is a class C felony
  • Trafficking in schedule Y drugs is a class D misdemeanor
  • Trafficking in schedule Z drugs is a class D misdemeanor

More about Maine’s trafficking definition. Details on Maine’s drug classification scheme. Information about aggravated trafficking charges. A guide to Maine felony and misdemeanor sentences.

Manufacturing Drugs is Drug Trafficking

While trafficking is most commonly proved by showing an individual sold drugs, Maine law also defines trafficking to include “manufacturing” of scheduled drugs. Manufacturing is defined to mean: “to produce, prepare, propagate, compound, convert or process, either directly or indirectly by extraction from substances of natural origin, or independently by means of chemical synthesis.” See 17-A §1101.

Maine v. Lowden: Methamphetamine Production

For years, Maine’s manufacturing definition meant that a person is guilty of drug trafficking simply by starting a chemical process that might lead to creation of a scheduled drug. That all changed with State of Maine v. Aaron Lowden. In that case, the Maine Supreme Judicial court vacated a drug trafficking conviction and seven-year sentence for manufacturing methamphetamine.

Aaron Lowden went into his landlord’s basement with glass beakers, chemicals and a camp stove. He blocked the door and tried to cook some kind of intoxicating drug. His landlord called the cops. They arrested Lowden and searched the home, but did not find any methamphetamine. Tests showed that Lowden was missing some of the chemicals needed to make meth and that he had not done the synthesis necessary to produce that drug.

Lowden went to trial charged with aggravated drug trafficking in methamphetamine by manufacturing the drug. He argued that he could not possibly have produced meth with the materials and process he used. The jury found him guilty anyway and the judge sentenced him to 7 years. Lowden appealed to the Maine Supreme Court who reversed his conviction and ordered him acquitted.

Maine’s New Drug Trafficking by Manufacturing Definition

The court held that evidence at trial  did not support a trafficking conviction. They reasoned that, since Maine’s drug trafficking law requires proof the substance “is in fact a scheduled drug” trafficking by manufacturing requires proof that the scheduled drug was produced. The major takeaway is this:

  • Drug Trafficking by Manufacturing in Maine requires proof that the drug was produced.
  • Attempted Drug Trafficking in Maine can be proved if the defendant began the manufacturing  process and intended to produce the illegal drug.

The Lowden case will force the prosecution to charge the lesser crime of attempted drug trafficking where there is no end product. That offense has a sentence of third to one half that for drug trafficking.

Defending these cases requires a detailed knowledge of the law and a good understanding of the chemistry involved. The stakes are extremely high since the maximum sentences are between 10 and 30 years. Lowden was convicted at trial, but his attorney fought every inch of the case and built a defense that ultimately got him acquitted. After two years behind bars, Aaron Lowden walked out of the Maine State Prison a few hours after the Law Court’s decision came down.

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