Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 10, 2020

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The least you should know…

  • Manufacturing drug charge sentence vary from state-to-state and federally.
  • Some states charge separately for manufacture and distribution, others charge both under the same crime.
  • There are federal mandatory minimums for all drug crimes involving more than a certain amount.
  • Defenses to manufacturing and distribution charges typically include claiming another use for the ingredients and claiming personal use for any drugs made.

Drug manufacturing charges (and sentences), or intent to manufacture controlled substances or street drugs, are serious crimes. A defendant charged with manufacturing should understand the nature of the charges, the potential penalties and sentences, and the possible defenses for a manufacturing charge.

In this article, we’ll look into the drug laws in the United States and a few specific states; the meaning of “manufacturing”, “delivery”, and “distribution”; and examine defenses and potentially how to beat a manufacturing charge.

If you are personally dealing with the legal defense for drug manufacturing or a related charge, you should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney. As you’ll see, drug manufacturing charges can be complicated and have serious penalties; you can search for a criminal defense attorney near you by entering your ZIP code above.

What is a manufacturing charge?

What constitutes a manufacturing charge depends on how a state defines the charge. For instance, Tennessee breaks manufacturing and distribution into two separate charges. Manufacturing a controlled substance in California is not only separate from distribution charges but also is subject to several potential aggravating factors and associated charges.

Manufacturing charges cover the actual manufacture and production of a controlled substance, while distribution charges are more concerned with the movement or delivery of a controlled substance. Texas, however, lumps the two charges together under the title of manufacture or delivery of a controlled substance. Like in California, manufacturing and delivery charges are subject to many aggravating factors.

Because of the serious nature of the crimes, it is always best for a defendant to consult with a drug lawyer as soon as possible when charged with drug manufacturing-related charges. 

Most manufacturing charges cover the actual production of a controlled substance. Using easily available online recipes and techniques, some defendants have tried to brew their own homemade batches of methamphetamine, a common street drug. Unlike beer or wine, which can be manufactured at home for personal use, the manufacture of methamphetamine for personal use is a felony.

Even though the actual manufacture of methamphetamine, or meth, is the most common reason for a manufacturing charge, some states do not limit a manufacturing charge to a completed product. These states not only prohibit the manufacture of a controlled substance but also prohibit the possession of certain items and chemicals with the intent of manufacturing methamphetamine.

A defendant who possesses ingredients used to make meth can be charged and punished the same as someone who actually completed the production process. Ingredients that could result in a charge include: anhydrous ammonia, pseudoephedrine, lithium batteries, and foil, all of which are fairly common household items but found together for a prohibited intent can lead to a felony charge.

Manufacture of methamphetamines often is the same charge as other drug manufacturing, but may be considered an enhancing or aggravating factor that results in a greater penalty. For example, due to the inherent danger in manufacturing methamphetamines, to the inherent danger in manufacturing methamphetamines.”>California law considers manufacturing these drugs in a dwelling where someone under 16 years old lives an aggravating factor.

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Penalties for Drug Manufacturing

Manufacturing charges carry a higher range of punishments than simple drug possession peanlities and charges, but each state sets its own punishment guidelines.

  • In Tennessee, punishment for manufacturing one gram or more of methamphetamine ranges from eight to 30 years in prison, with an optional fine of up to $25,000.00.
  • In Texas, the punishment increases with the amount produced. For example, the manufacture of between one and four grams of meth could lead to a sentence of two to 20 years in state prison, while the manufacture of 400 plus grams of meth could result in a minimum sentence of 15 years up to 99 years, or life, in prison.
  • In California, the aforementioned aggravating factors can enhance a sentence, but the penalty for manufacturing can result in between two and seven years in state prison.

Sentencing Guidelines

Each state has established basic sentencing guidelines, which can be enhanced by several other factors. One is where the offense took place. If a defendant manufactures meth or other controlled substance near a school or a child, the sentence could be enhanced.

Some states will deny early parole for defendants who manufacture meth and possess a firearm. In Texas, for example, a defendant convicted of manufacturing a controlled substance might only be required to complete a quarter of the sentence, but a defendant who possessed a deadly weapon, like a firearm, would have to complete half of the sentences before becoming eligible for parole, effectively doubling the sentence.

Understanding the nature of a manufacturing charge and punishment ranges can affect a defendant’s defensive strategy.

Defenses to Drug Manufacturing Charges

Other than the usual defenses for any possession charge, a defendant charged with manufacturing a controlled substance who is caught with a completed product may not have much of a defense. In such a situation, the best strategy may be to look for ways to mitigate the punishment. For example, a defendant who can show that the production was only for personal drug use could face a lower sentence. Other factors, like the absence of a child, also can lead to a lower sentence.

A defendant who is charged only with possessing certain chemicals needed to produce a controlled substance usually looks for ways to negate the intent to produce. For example, a defendant might admit possessing ingredients, like the anhydrous ammonia, but demonstrate a legitimate purpose for doing so. If a defendant can show the substance was not possessed to make meth, then a judge or jury could find the defendant not guilty of a manufacturing charge.

Many defendants have argued that the economy or the job market created the need to manufacture and distribute controlled substances but failed to recognize that manufacturing a controlled substance can have a devastating effect on personal finances.

Beyond paying a fine, imprisonment without income, and paying for a defense attorney, some states authorize the seizure of property or proceeds of drug-related crimes — separate and apart from the criminal charges. This means that law enforcement can seize the car used to carry ingredients and, potentially, the house where the controlled substance was manufactured. Even though manufacturing methamphetamine may look like a lucrative opportunity, a drug manufacturing conviction can be far more costly than conviction on other criminal charges.

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Frequently Asked Questions: Drug Manufacturing Charges and Sentences

Drug manufacturing charges can be complicated. Though many answers are included above, we’re going to try and answer a few more below. To learn more you can look at this list of drug charges and sentences, though keep in mind that charges and sentences vary by state and can change.

What does manufacturing a controlled substance mean?

A “controlled substance” is any illegal drug. Depending on the state, this can include growing and packaging marijuana or making or attempting to make prescription drugs. Any making or attempt to make these drugs or, more commonly, methamphetamine, LSD, MDMA, or other such drugs, is illegal and can result in being charged with some variation of manufacturing a controlled substance.

What is the mandatory minimum sentence for drug possession?

Mandatory minimum sentencing refers to a federal law that requires federal judges to issue specific minimum sentences in drug cases. Some states have created similar laws, but for federal drug offenses, there is no choice for the judge to issue a lower sentence.

This even applies to the first offenses for felony drug charges. Mandatory minimums depend on the drug involved and the quantity.

Type of Drug 5 Years Without Parole 10 Years Without Parole
Marijuana 100 kilos 1,000 kilos
Crack Cocaine  28 grams 280 grams
Powder Cocaine 500 grams 5 kilos
Heroine 100 grams 1 kilo
Methamphetamine (pure) 5 grams 50 grams
Methamphetamine (mixture) 50 grams 500 grams

In response to criticism of these harsh penalties, congress created a safety valve that allowed non-violent first-time offenders to be excluded from the mandatory minimums. 

Do first-time drug dealers go to jail?

Although nonviolent first-time drug dealers may not face the mandatory minimums discussed above, anyone convicted of dealing (distribution, delivery, etc…) will almost certainly face a prison sentence of at least one year.

The sentence for manufacturing is also likely to result in prison if convicted. In some state courts, however, an alternative sentence may be possible depending on the circumstances.

How do you beat a manufacturing and delivery charge?

With an experienced defense attorney, it’s possible to overcome a charge for manufacturing and delivery. To defeat the manufacturing element, a common strategy is to argue that the items in your possession were not intended to make a controlled substance. If you can show you had another intent with the items, you cannot be convicted of manufacturing a controlled substance.

If you already have manufactured the drug, however, it may not be possible to overcome the charge of manufacturing. You could still overcome the delivery (or distribution) charge by proving that you were only planning on using the drugs yourself.

Bringing it All Together

Drug charges are serious. Even simple possession can result in sentences of five or ten years in federal prison. Manufacturing charges are often more severe, and many aggravating factors can make the penalties even worse. 

You can be charged with drug manufacturing just by owning the things necessary to make a drug, and some states will charge you with distribution or intent to distribute just based on the quantity of drugs in your possession. 

In addition to prison sentences, manufacturing charges can result in fines and seizure of your property.

Did we answer all your questions about drug manufacturing and distribution? Is there something else you need to learn about the charges and potential sentences?

If you have specific questions or need legal help, you should consult a criminal defense attorney experienced in drug manufacturing defense. You can start searching by entering your ZIP code in the search tool below and find an attorney who can help you with these serious matters of criminal law.

References:

  1. https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/HS/htm/HS.481.htm
  2. https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/snitch/primer/