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People v. Gary: Was a Methamphetamine Lab Used as a Weapon for the Purposes of Felony Sentencing?

January 20, 2018 Criminal Law and Procedure

In the Court of Appeals case of People v. Gary, the Court analyzed whether a defendant should have been assessed offense variable 1 and 2 points for aggravated use of a weapon and the lethal potential of a weapon possessed or used. The alleged weapon in this case discussed by the Court was a methamphetamine lab and its explosion.

What Happened in the Case

Defendant Gary plead guilty to operating or maintaining a methamphetamine laboratory. Gary was sentenced to 38 to 120 months in prison. In the case, Gary had a methamphetamine lab that exploded, causing injuries to another person.

At his sentencing, the trial court assessed points for offense variables 1 and 2. Offense variable 1 is for aggravated use of a weapon. Offense variable 2 is for the lethal potential of a weapon.

Sentencing in a Felony Case

In a felony case where a person is going to prison, a person is sentenced to a minimum amount of time and a maximum amount of time. The minimum amount of time is determined by looking at the person’s past criminal record and also at the specifics of the sentencing offense. The specifics of the sentencing offense are called offense variable. A person is given “points” for each offense variable. The fewer points the better for defendants. At sentencing (and as here on appeal), a defendant will usually argue to keep those points down.

Here, the Court assessed points for offense variables 1 and 2, described above, and defendant Gary argued against that assessment.

On Appeal

The defendant’s arguments were that the methamphetamine lab nor anything in it was used as weapon.

Specifically, the trial court said Gary possessed a harmful chemical substance or an explosive device.

For both offense variable 1 and 2, however, the question is really whether there was a “weapon” in this case. There being a weapon is a prerequisite to either aggravated use of a weapon or lethal potential of a weapon.

As in so many cases, the Court’s decision came down to a dictionary definition. In this case, what is a weapon? A weapon is an instrument or device used for attack or defense in a fight or combat.

Methamphetamine may be a lethal substance and a meth lab could be dangerous for all the explosive and flammable chemicals in the lab, but neither Meth nor the lab or anything in the lab was used as a weapon. This was critical for the case. Although the lab blew up and injured someone, the lab was not used as a weapon to hurt anyone.

Read More about Michigan Methamphetamine Law

Therefore, the Court said, there was no weapon in this case, and the scoring of offense variable 1 and 2 for the felony sentencing calculation was done in error.

Contact ArborYpsi Law

Call Sam Bernstein at 734-883-9584 or e-mail at bernstein@arborypsilaw.com.

Sam Bernstein is an Ann Arbor lawyer focusing on criminal defense and DUI law.

ArborYpsi Law is located 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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This case is captioned as People v. Gary, 849 NW 2d 414 – Mich: Court of Appeals 2014