Meth manufacturing still a major criminal problem in South Carolina

On a late September 2013 evening, firefighters and law enforcement were called to a burning mobile home north of Clover in York County, S.C., a county on the border with North Carolina. As a result, two men were charged with the drug crime of methamphetamine manufacturing.

Shake and bake

Known for havoc it wreaks on the human body, methamphetamine is an illegal, highly addictive stimulant drug made from household chemicals and over-the-counter medications like Sudafed. While the purchase of medications containing the ingredients needed to make meth has become tightly controlled, a new method allows a small batch to be made using easily obtainable amounts.

The defendants in the Clover incident were allegedly using the so-called "shake-and-bake" or "one-pot" method of making a small batch of meth for just one or two people, but the experiment apparently went awry when the concoction exploded, setting the trailer on fire. This process, prevalent in the South and Midwest, simply involves mixing the necessary chemicals for meth in a two-liter soda bottle.

Traditionally a primarily rural problem, meth manufacturing has become more of an urban problem since the new method is portable. While this new, more mobile way of making meth is easier than the use of traditional methamphetamine laboratories, it is still very dangerous with a significant chance of explosion, causing potential exposure to highly toxic chemicals and severe burns.

By the numbers

According to WISTV, York County authorities have said that the incidence of meth labs is increasing in the area. The statistics are grim: according to The Associated Press, the Drug Enforcement Administration or DEA released statistics to the news agency showing that both South and North Carolina were in the top 10 states for meth labs in 2012.

State and federal meth crime and punishment

Both South Carolina and federal drug laws establish meth crimes like possession, sale, trafficking, distribution, manufacture, disposal of meth waste, import and export, exposure of children to meth chemicals and more.

Criminal penalties can include significant prison time often followed by supervised release, very steep fines, treatment, restitution for environmental clean-up costs and more. Punishment is steeper for multiple offenses, and if someone is hurt or dies in relation to the crime; and can rise when higher amounts of the drug are involved.

In some circumstances, related criminal charges may be brought for identity theft, since meth manufacturers may use stolen identities to procure larger amounts of over-the-counter medications than they would be able to buy legally as an individual.

Mount a vigorous criminal defense

If you are a South Carolinian under investigation for or accused of a state or federal crime related to meth, it is crucial to contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer as early in the process as possible to begin to protect your rights. Your attorney can investigate the circumstances on your behalf, including whether law enforcement stepped over the line in any way in the investigation or arrest.

Seasoned legal counsel can fight to have the matter dismissed, negotiate with the prosecution concerning a possible plea agreement, fight the charges in trial or, if necessary, advocate for fair sentencing if you are convicted of any crime, including possible alternatives to incarceration, including drug rehabilitation when appropriate.