In response to a surge in seizures of methamphetamine laboratories in New York state, in 2007 the Assembly passed tough new laws outlawing the operation of facilities used to produce illegal “chemical” drugs like methamphetamine and its variants. Thus, anyone aspiring to be like Walter White on Breaking Bad faces significant penalties for their criminal behavior.
The definitions provided in Penal Law 220.62 make this charge fairly all-encompassing of any activity related to the operation of a drug laboratory. Indeed, it is not only the “manager” of the operation that can be held responsible; basically anyone and everyone that possesses or supplies materials or acts in furtherance of the operation of a laboratory can arrested and charged with the crime of Unlawful Clandestine Drug Operation in the Second Degree (Penal Law 220.63). This charge is a Class C felony. The First Degree charge (Penal Law 220.64, Class B felony) arises where there are aggravating factors, such as repeat offending, health/safety/environmental risks, the participation of a juvenile, or proximity to a school. Also, the utilization of booby traps elevates a Second-Degree charge to the First Degree.
Convictions for these charges carry potentially very significant prison sentences, so a defense must be thorough and intelligent. Typically these cases involve search warrants or wiretaps that can at least be challenged with pre-trial motions. Also, these charges often involve multiple co-defendants or conspiracy allegations, meaning that certain defendants can claim to have been wrongfully included amongst the operators of the laboratory.