Noble County has seen it.
Maybe DeKalb County, too.
But Noble County officers are finding more and more methamphetamine in liquid form. And while officers aren’t quite sure why the trend is happening, Noble County Prosecuting Attorney Jim Mowery knows what to do about it.
He’s prosecuting it.
State law treats the weight of methamphetamine recovered by officials the same in either pure or adulterated form when it comes to levels of charging.
Anyone possessing more than 10 grams of methamphetamine and less than 28 grams is charged with a Level 4 felony.
That can be 11 grams of pure meth, according to state law. Or 6 grams of pure meth mixed with 5 grams of baking soda.
Or methamphetamine mixed in with a liquid.
Police in Noble County have seen bottles and fountain drinks of pop which have tested positive for meth. It’s been seen in milk. In one Noble County case, it was found in a bong, a marijuana smoking device.
In that Noble County case, Mowery charged the individual according to the weight of liquid which was found in the bong.
Noble County Sheriff Max Weber has appreciated Mowery’s aggressive approach to such prosecutions.
“I think they’re doing a very good job at the prosecutor’s office,” Weber said. “I couldn’t be happier.”
Officers may be pleased with how Mowery is charging such cases, but the tendency to put the meth in a liquid
“It looks like someone is carrying around a couple gallons of milk,” an undercover agent with the Noble County Narcotics Investigation Unit. “When it comes back, they have it crashed back out into crystal form.”
Noble County police have seen the trend since last summer, but haven’t arrested anyone who will tell them how the “crashing out” — turning liquid meth into crystal meth again — is done.
Mowery said to get the actual weight of methamphetamine, “You have to evaporate the liquid an find the solids.”
Investigators aren’t sure if the meth found in the bong was being smoked, or if the methamphetamine was placed in the water to avoid detection.
The undercover agent said criminals are always trying to stay one step ahead of the police, and mixing the crystal meth with a liquid is just another way to attempt to avoid detection.
“It was getting hit in traffic stops and being taken,” the agent said, so now some users are dissolving the drug into liquids.
“It throws us off the track,” the agent said. “They hope we won’t find it in the liquid. You can hide meth in liquid a lot easier than crystal meth in a plastic bag. It’s the trying to beat the system.”
The system is fighting back, at least in Noble County, by Mowery charging the aggregate weight of the liquid and the meth — at least initially. That results in higher bail amounts for suspects.
Auburn police said they have had at least one instance in which meth was suspected to have been dissolved into a cup of pop, but the pop was intentionally spilled by a perpetrator before it could be properly tested.
“We have not seen this over here since the old days of bottle dope,” DeKalb County Prosecuting Attorney ClaraMary Winebrenner said. “I hear Noble may have a case where the meth was dumped into a can of pop. Technically, I agree the ‘amount’ for charging purposes would be the weight of the liquid.
“I would probably plead the case out for something much less than that amount would normally suggest. For instance, I would not presume the defendant a dealer just because the liquid was over 28 grams, which is allowed by statute.
Steuben County Prosecuting Attorney Jeremy Musser is also taking a wait-and-see approach.
“Since we haven’t had one quite like this, I’d probably need a little more info before I could say” how it would be charged,” Musser said. “The only types of cases I can recall involving meth in a liquid related to the manufacturing process. We just charged those as manufacturing. However, I have heard that you could put liquid meth in a vape pen to smoke. The last I knew the ISP lab wasn’t weighing liquids. Maybe that’s changed, but I would want to know what the lab would be able to do on its end.”