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Federal Defense of Methamphetamine Charges

Successful Defense of a Federal Conspiracy to Manufacture More Than 50 Grams of Methamphetamine


The client was a woman who lived in St. Augustine and had been making methamphetamine in her detached garage to make ends meet. She fell in with a motorcycle gang who was in the business of selling methamphetamine. She was reputed to be one of the best methamphetamine 'cooks'. The DEA burst into her home early one morning, threw her and her daughter to the ground at gunpoint and searched her home. Agents in hazmat suits seized the client's 'methamphetamine lab' located in her garage. The drug bust was in the newspapers along the name of the motorcycle gang she was associated with.

Criminal Charges Brought

The client was indicted, along with 11 others, by a federal grand jury and charged with participating in a methamphetamine conspiracy spanning five years. She was facing up to 40 years in jail, tens of thousands of dollars in fines and, devastatingly, the forfeiture of her home.

My Approach

The client was a single mother; her husband had died, leaving her alone to care for her high school aged daughter. After carefully interviewing the client (and the client's extended family), I learned that she was also a methamphetamine user and a person who had suffered from psychiatric illness all her life. She had been prescribed medications in the past to help her cope. In essence, she was using methamphetamine to self-medicate. I also discovered that the DEA did not have a search warrant when they searched her home and seized her 'meth lab'. I immediately moved to suppress (that is, throw out) the illegal search of her home and all of the evidence with it. I also hired a chemical expert who helped me review all the evidence. We had a lengthy hearing in court about whether the search was legal or not and whether the items recovered even constituted a 'meth lab'.


Before the Judge ruled on the motion to suppress the evidence, I reached out to the prosecutor to discuss a deal. After extensive negotiations, the prosecutor agreed to let the client plead guilty to a substantially lesser charge (the manufacture of more than 5 grams of methamphetamine, rather than 50 grams) and further agreed not to forfeit the client's home. Still, when all was said and done, the client's Presentence Investigation Report recommended that she be sentenced to a range of imprisonment from 108 - 135 months (that's 9 years - 11 years, 2 months!). Naturally, the client wondered whether she had done the right thing in pleading guilty.

Sentencing and Result

I prepared a detailed and persuasive sentencing memorandum on behalf of the client, which was read by the Judge before she was sentenced. I argued that the client was basically a drug user, had psychiatric issues, had not endangered the welfare of her daughter (an honors high school student) and that she had a network of family support. I argued these and other points at her sentencing hearing and had family members speak on her behalf. The Judge disagreed with the recommended sentence of 108 - 135 months and sentenced the client to just 24 months in a minimum security prison.

Final Analysis

The case required me to humanize the client and portray her as the loving mother and unfortunate methamphetamine user that she was, rather than a person operating a methamphetamine lab for profit and supplying a violent motorcycle gang. It further required me to press every advantage and show that she was the victim of an illegal search and seizure of evidence. While some jail time was required, it could have been much worse; the client will soon be out and reunited with her daughter in her own home, which I consider a successful result for her and her family.

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