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Supreme Court Declines Review of Oklahoma Pseudoephedrine Ruling

14-Jun-2013

Last week, the United States Supreme Court declined to review Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt's appeal of a state court decision that struck down portions of the state's meth offender registry requirements. By refusing to hear the case, the Supreme Court effectively upheld the ruling of the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

At issue is a law that prevents people who have been convicted of methamphetamine-related crimes from buying or possessing meth and its precursors, including pseudoephedrine. Pseudoephedrine is a legal, over-the-counter drug that is frequently used in the manufacture of methamphetamine. The Oklahoma Methamphetamine Offender Registry Act was enacted in 2010. It requires anyone convicted of a meth crime to register, and prevents registered meth offenders from possession of meth and pseudoephedrine.

However, anyone convicted of a meth offense prior to 2010 is not listed on the registry, yet was still subject to the stipulation that he or she could not legally purchase or possess pseudoephedrine, a common cold medication.

Angela Michelle Wolf was convicted of a meth offense prior to 2010, and although considered a meth offender, she was not subject to the registry enacted after her conviction. Because she was not on the registry, she was not prevented at the point-of-sale from buying pseudoephedrine. She was charged with five counts of violating the Oklahoma Methamphetamine Offender Registry Act. Initially, she pleaded guilty to the charges and received 14 years in prison for each count. 

However, she quickly withdrew her plea and argued the constitutionality of the law, which her appeals lawyer argued violated due process. Because Wolf was not on the Meth Offender Registry, she was not notified that she was prohibited from purchasing an otherwise legal drug. The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that she was, in fact, denied due process, and provisions of the law were struck down.

Attorney General Pruitt argued in his appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court that public awareness campaigns and meth laws put anyone in the state of Oklahoma "on notice" that the sale of pseudoephedrine is highly regulated, and that Wolf should have reasonably known that because of her prior conviction, it was illegal for her to possess the cold medicine.

Effective November 1, 2013, however, the law will be amended to provide notice to anyone convicted of a meth offense prior to 2010 that he or she is subject to the Oklahoma Methamphetamine Registry Act and is therefore prohibited from purchasing or possessing pseudoephedrine.

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