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The Reality of Breaking Bad: California “Meth Lab” Laws

The popular AMC series Breaking Bad tells the story of a struggling chemistry teacher who begins producing and selling methamphetamine to secure his family’s financial future before he dies of lung cancer. Walter White’s life of crime takes the twists and turns of TV drama, but what about real people accused of manufacturing meth and operating meth labs?

Earlier this month, an Inland Empire home in Rialto was raided on suspicion of a drug operation, and officers allegedly found a large amount of crystal methamphetamine and an active icing laboratory. Nearby residents told reporters that they were not aware of any suspicious activity at the house, and were surprised when their neighbors were taken away in handcuffs.

Facing Meth Lab-Related Charges in California

California law prohibits the production of methamphetamine during any stage of the manufacturing process, including compounding, deriving, converting, producing, extracting, or preparing methamphetamine. The law also forbids offering to engage in any stage of the meth manufacturing process. (California Health and Safety Code Section 11379.6) A person involved in “cooking” meth, mixing the chemicals to make meth, or buying equipment to manufacture meth may also be charged under California’s conspiracy laws or aiding and abetting laws.

Operating a meth lab in California is classified as a felony offense, punishable by up to seven years in state prison and a $50,000 fine. Offering to help in an operation carries a possible sentence of up to five years in prison. Aggravating factors may increase a defendant’s sentence if convicted of operating an illegal meth lab, including:

  • The production of “crystal” meth
  • The manufacture of meth in the presence of children, or in the same structure as children
  • Causing another person to suffer death or great bodily injury
  • Certain prior drug-related convictions

To be convicted of operating a meth lab in California, it is not necessary to completely finish the meth manufacturing process. However, some preparatory acts, such as purchasing ingredients commonly used to manufacture meth, may be insufficient to sustain a conviction for operating a meth lab. Other possible defenses include illegal search and seizure and lack of actual knowledge of the operation.

Contact a Rancho Cucamonga Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you or a loved one has been arrested for a drug crime in San Bernardino County, you need strong defense representation to help you protect your rights and your future. Contact Rancho Cucamonga criminal defense attorney John D. Lueck for a free initial consultation. The Law Offices of John D. Lueck has been defending individuals against felony and misdemeanor charges in Southern California for more than 35 years.

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