Indiana grandmother prosecuted for buying cold medicine

by Walter Olson on September 29, 2009

Sally Harpold was cuffed and arrested for buying two packages of cold medicine within a week in violation of Indiana law, though no one contends she or anyone she knew intended to cook them down into methamphetamine [Terre Haute Tribune-Star] Harpold’s story has been racing around blogs well known to our readers: Radley Balko/Reason “Hit and Run”, Ken at Popehat, Amy Alkon (with bonus kind words for @walterolson), Legal Blog Watch, BoingBoing. The Vermillion County, Indiana prosecutor is offering no apologies.

P.S. A Popehat commenter finds new reason to doubt those reassurances on CPSIA enforcement along the lines of “don’t be silly, they’d never go after grandmothers over rummage sales or homemade crafts“.

{ 9 comments }

1 Doug 09.29.09 at 12:47 am

Meth is going to be made no matter what. Prosecuting the grandmother is NOT going to stop that one bit. It only causes the law to be held in disrespect. What kind of world do we live in when the inmates seem to be running the asylum?

2 Frank 09.29.09 at 9:54 am

So pharmacies most post signs warning that records are kept and available to the State.

Couldn’t this problem have been avoided by the State having required the posting of signs that warn that purchase of more than one package of decongestant within 10 days (or whatever) is illegal?

3 Benjamin 09.29.09 at 11:59 am

This is a case for jury nullification. That is why juries judge both the law and the facts.

4 gitarcarver 09.29.09 at 12:24 pm

The law states that ” (i) A person who knowingly or intentionally violates this section commits a Class C misdemeanor.” (Source:http://www.in.gov/legislative/ic/code/title35/ar48/ch4.html Section in question is “35-48-4-14.7″)

It doesn’t seem that the grandmother “knowingly or intentionally” bought the drug to violate the law.

In fact, the Indiana Court of Appeals just reversed a conviction of another woman saying “However, the State failed to present evidence sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she knowingly violated Indiana Code section 35-48-4-14.7(d).”

The decision can be found here:
http://www.in.gov/judiciary/opinions/pdf/09090901par.pdf

5 Bob Lipton 09.29.09 at 4:04 pm

Well, that’s fine, then. Hire lawyer, fight it out in court, go on to appeal and a hundred thousand or so dollars and five years later, you’reallowed to go home.

Bob

6 gitarcarver 09.29.09 at 6:43 pm

Well, that’s fine, then.

No Bob, it’s not okay.

That wasn’t the point I was trying to make. The prosecutor makes the statement that whether the woman was ignorant of the law, and whether she was aware of the amount of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine contained in the two products she purchased doesn’t matter. According to this guy, all that matters is that she broke the purchase restriction.

The court clearly disagrees with him and he should drop all the charges immediately and get on with prosecuting real criminals – not ones that he imagines in his mind.

Using common sense, the woman should never have been charged or arrested. Using the law, she should go home with a clean record.

7 mike 09.29.09 at 6:59 pm

I’m fairly certain that prosecutors have discretion on whom to prosecute.
Therefore either (1) prosecutor is an idiot, (2) prosecutor has a bone to pick with this particular lady, (3) prosecutor is intentionally trying to expose flaws in this law, or (4) prosecutor’s boss made him do it.

8 Bob Neal 09.29.09 at 8:02 pm

Who wants to bet she sues the pharmacy for failure to put her on notice of the law? Not saying it’s viable, but that won’t prevent the suit from being filed.

9 Bug 09.29.09 at 8:44 pm

So why shouldn’t we call the prosecutor incompetent? I ask that because of the tremendous waste of taxpayer dollars and resources to actually send officers to arrest her, etc. It is highly irresponsible for him to pull officers from doing REAL work in order to go arrest this person for such a trivial offense. The next question is why HIS boss hasn’t called him on the carpet and/or fired him for not being bright enough to exercise his prosecutorial judgment better.

Oh, and nice job from the Indiana legislature for writing such a silly law. If you’re going to put all this crap in place to track box by box, then maybe draw the line at 20 (I’ve no idea how many boxes it takes to make enough meth to be worth the bother), but TWO?

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