Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies weren’t even looking for methamphetamine labs.
In fact, our Birmingham drug crime defense lawyers understand that it was only based on an anonymous tip that they even went looking for a wanted man spotted at a metal recycling plant in the first place.
They caught up with and arrested him, though we don’t know what for as his identity and charges have been publicly withheld. However, once in police custody, the suspect wouldn’t stop talking. He told authorities of one methamphetamine manufacturer in town he was aware of – and then another.
As a result, two people were arrested on unrelated outstanding warrants at the first location and a methamphetamine manufacturing operation was indeed found at the second. At that point, deputies with the Narcotics Division took over the investigation. Three individuals at the home were questioned, though they were ultimately released pending further investigation and chemical testing.
Neither authorities – nor we – were surprised that one tip ultimately led to several more, as drug manufacturing and trafficking organizations tend to be closely knit. Not to mention, when you are dealing with individuals who suffer from addiction, they may be easily pressed by police into providing information to avoid penalties on even minor charges. There is often little loyalty in this regard.
This is why it is absolutely critical that you hire an attorney with experience in defending these cases.
Operation of a methamphetamine lab would seem fairly straightforward, but there are many possible defenses. These include your role in the operation – whether you lived there or simply dropped by. Maybe you bought supplies. Many of the chemicals and items used to produce methamphetamine are legal substances. Prosecutors have to have a fairly extensive list of items and their storage to prove you were using them for the purposes alleged.
It’s noteworthy that last year, the federal government announced it would be reducing funding to help Alabama law enforcement agencies investigate methamphetamine operations – money they had been supplying for more than 10 years. In 2010, the Drug Enforcement Administration helped the state pay to clean up nearly 660 methamphetamine labs. There were quite a few more that didn’t require toxic waste clean-up efforts.
Jefferson County averaged 2.5 methamphetamine lab clean-ups a month that year, while Shelby County reported 66. Each clean-up job costs anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000. At the time the funding cut was announced, many police agencies worried that such a measure would bankrupt them.
But of course, rather than shouldering the financial costs of investigating and subsequently cleaning up these operations, law enforcement is simply being less aggressive in investigating them.
This lack of investigative resources means that investigations into these matters may not be as thorough, and therefore evidence may be more easily challenged by an experienced criminal defense lawyer. However, as this incident clearly shows, you never know when police may stumble upon it.