Sudafed Head: Indiana Women Arrested for Buying Two Over-The-Counter Medicines Within a Week

Pros1Sally Harpold is a Sudafed Head . . . or is she an Actifed Head? Well, the important thing is that she has been finally locked away in Clinton, Indiana where she was caught buying two cold medicines within seven days. Vermillion County Prosecutor Nina Alexander (left) racked up the major coup four months after the purchases and charged her with violating Indiana law 35-48-4-14.7, which restricts the sale of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine, or PSE, products to no more than 3.0 grams within any seven-day period.

What is amazing is that Harpold thought that she could get away with this. Here is her crime spree: she bought one box of Zyrtec-D cold medicine for her husband at a Rockville pharmacy and then less than seven days later she bought a box of Mucinex-D cold medicine for her adult daughter at a Clinton pharmacy — a total of 3.6 grams total of pseudoephedrine in a week’s time.

Not only is the grandmother of triplets a criminal in the eyes of Alexander but she is an enabler pushing cold medicine on her family. Police have been able to learn the “drug signals” in the family — usually members with cough repeatedly to signal their need for another fix.

Alexander charged her with a class-C misdemeanor, which carries a sentence of up to 60 days in jail and up to a $500 fine. She is willing to expunge the crime from her record, if Harpold pays the court costs, stays clean for 30 days, and presumably comes to terms with “her problem.”

What is astonishing is that officials expect citizens to calculate their amounts of the pseudoephedrine in over-the-counter drugs, but as the list below shows there are about 1000 such products that you might buy containing the substance. People are expected to drag themselves with the flu to the store and then calculate the exact amount of the substance in purchases over the last week. Alexander, however, blames pushers like Harpold: “If you take these products, you ought to know what’s in them.”

ZyrtecD01The law itself is obviously poorly written. The burden and expectation for the consumers to track these amounts is unrealistic. Stores may be barred from sales to individuals, but either take these products off the market or regulate sales through the stores. Criminalizing a population of sneezing, coughing citizens is not the solution.

One would at least expect police and particularly prosecutors to show some common sense and discretion. Even though Vermillion County ranked as the state’s fifth-largest producer of methamphetamine and this is viewed as a law to combat such production, one can make simple and obvious judgments in cases like this.

Alexander, however, appears to protect her office against the ravages of discretion or common sense. She insisted “[t]he law does not make this distinction. . . I’m simply enforcing the law as it was written.” Well, there are lots of laws that fail to make distinctions but prosecutors are not required to charge in every case. Prosecutors are not robots. They play a role in the system of justice to avoid injustice.

In Harpold case, the police came for her four months after her purchases in the middle of the night. She was thrown in jail and eventually released on bond.

For those of you who do not want to land in an Indiana jail with a head cold, here is the list of roughly 1000 medicines sold over the counter that are covered by these laws.

For the full story, click here.

52 thoughts on “Sudafed Head: Indiana Women Arrested for Buying Two Over-The-Counter Medicines Within a Week

  1. Damn,

    Thank goodness real criminals use their real ID 100 percent of the time. What the hell is wrong with you Indiana, not enough real crime?

  2. One would at least expect police and particularly prosecutors to show some common sense and discretion.”

    I am wondering if that is the growing problem that needs the most attention.

    The framers taught us not to expect good from power but rather to expect corruption. That way we could fashion protections.

    Perhaps that is why they are trying to regulate away the constitution these strange daze … because it is a good medicine?

    http://blogdredd.blogspot.com/2009/07/constitution-is-quite-medicine.html

  3. The Chinese have a saying, something about killing an animal of one type to warn an animal of another. I think the animals are chicken and monkey.

    The law against drugs works something like this. Of course everyone knows that this granny is not going to make meth, but punishing her severely still sends a righteous message to potential purchasers of pseudoephedrine to make meth.

    By the way Australia has followed the US in the absurd restriction of effective cold medications containing PSE. One can still get small amounts of these medicines at the cost of revealing all one’s details but it’s not worth the hassle.

    If I were not an atheist I would be praying that there is a really nasty corner of the infernal regions reserved for warriors against illegal drugs.

  4. We know that pseudoephedrine is used as a base to make meth. We also know that one can purchase it over the counter because of its’ use in various non-prescription medications for coughs colds etc. While I do believe the War on Drugs is idiotic and bound to fail, but on even the idiotic terms of the War on Drugs this Indiana law is absurd. In the War on Drugs terms you could make medicines containing pseudoephedrine require prescriptions, thereby controlling the quantities used. While I think that would be doomed to failure and only allow the price of meth to rise, this at least would have some sort of logical consistency.

    However, if requiring prescriptions for these medications were put in effect the profits of their corporate makers would fall drastically. We could never have that, so the Indiana legislators, provided this compromise in order to appear to be doing something positive. Due to that we get this ridiculous result and a woman gets cuffed and jailed for two acts that literally anyone could have performed unknowingly.

    Dredd said it first, but let me agree and second. The law was stupid, but we have seen the rise of these silly arrests due to an over-zealousness in law enforcement at all levels. Surely the police and prosecutors should not have had this woman arrested and by their so doing they expose their own bad judgment. These days in law enforcement bad judgment is rampant.

  5. “While I do believe the War on Drugs is idiotic and HAS FAILED and is responsible for suffering and death on a massive scale…”

    There, Mike, fixed that for you.

  6. TAFKAF,
    Your correction is correct, but you must remember that I’m an older guy and so less direct in my words. I agree though totally and should have outright stated it.

  7. To BuelahMan: It’s called a police state, the confluence of war crimes for which there are no longer consequences, and law enforcement, which sees what is now acceptable, absent prosecutions. And when tough law enforcement is the actual answer, we chose war.

    We will soon long for the quaint day when all that spiked our outrage were a few random taserings. Very soon, indeed.

  8. We’re going to take this up in Criminal law this week. An instance of strict liability in criminal statutes, and I suppose, whether you can read in a mens rea element into the statute (probably not).

  9. I would just like to state for the record that some backwoods/mountain hick did not invent meth nor the chemistry behind it. This epidemic is far more of a conspiracy than we as a nation would like to admit. The fact that we lock up so many minorities or poverty stricken people with the war on drugs and hardly any of the real wealthy kingpins is just more evidence that there are other hands in this game we do not see.

    Arresteing some woman who just didn’t like one brand over another sends the message that we can imprison you albeit temporarily for any reason… it’s a scare tactic that works another way than what was intended.

  10. Excellent Mike, excellent! I hope others on the blog read it as well. You continue to give me a “barrels worth of entertainment”. Great posts..

  11. She’s lucky she wasn’t forced to the ground with a cops knee on her neck while she was being handcuffed.
    Some people need to justify thier existence and this prosecutor obviously had nothing better going on. Is it too much to as for little, just a wee bit, of common sense from our goverment.

  12. Wow. Just wow. And I thought they had the ephedrine-stupids bad here in Oregon!

    The limit here is 9g per month. Luckily, we can usually get through allergy season at that rate, but it takes an Rx! AND luckily we’ve had the same GP for 20+ years, so for-allergy-Rx-renewals are not a big deal (he KNOWS us, he knows about the allergies, and that they are real, and that the PE version DOES NOT WORK, for us). We actually hardly ever use the stuff for colds and flu, it’s allergies in this house.

    Also, my husband’s usual rant when this subject comes up is… the SOLVENTS are usually what makes it possible to find a meth kitchen, and it takes REALLY large quantities of the solvents, and it would be REALLY easy to control the solvents without disrupting innocent people’s lives…

    AND we have yet to see reliable evidence that it’s even possible to get usable meth ingredients out of OTC sources. Unless you’re starting with a couple of pallet-loads of the OTC sources… MAYBE that actual documentation is out there somewhere, but we have yet to encounter it.

    Of course, we’re not looking very hard, because we CAN manage under the current situation, but we’d really like also to see some evidence that all this draconian stomping of flu and allergy sufferers has actually made any dent in the amount of home-cooked meth being produced, or the numbers of convictions of REAL meth cooks….

  13. “Summer in northwest Indiana has been known to produce wistful longings for hell.”

    –Bill Moyers

    Now, I know why. The robots have taken over the government!!!

  14. Call me a cockeyed optimist, but maybe it is a good thing (for the public, not Sally) that there wasn’t any prosecutor discretion here. Without this apparently crazy result, the flaws in the underlying law would not have been exposed to the public. The more outrageous the arrests and charges, the more likely the law will be repealed or replaced. Call it the case for enforcing stupid laws stupidly to illustrate their stupidity. A little like working to contract in a labor dispute.

    Of course I may be wrong, and the public will just become inured to stupid laws and expect to have any random act criminalized. Voters rarely demonstrate the ability to vote out the legislators that make life difficult. But surely there is some result crazy enough to get them to act, or the legislators to fear for reelection, isn’t there?

  15. Laws restricting the sale of pseudophedrine are not there to stop people from abusing pseudophedrine – only an idiot would try that because it doesn’t get you high. They are there to prevent people from buying large amounts in order to manufacture methamphetamine and they actually have been quite effective in that sense. However Turley is right in that this lady was obviously not cooking meth, didn’t need to be prosecuted, and the law should be changed so people with legitimate needs don’t have to worry about getting in trouble.

  16. They have a very similar law in Illinois and it is a pain in the backside. The restrictions on getting over the counter Claritin-D were so bad that my allergist prescribed Clarinex D because it was easier to get the prescription than the so-called over the counter drug.

  17. Article I, Section 19 of the Indiana Constitution says “In all criminal cases whatever, the jury shall have the right to determine the law and the facts.”

    That’s right, jury nullification is a CONSTITUTIONALLY PROTECTED RIGHT in Indiana. This poor woman should exercise her right for a jury trial. I doubt a jury of her peers will convict her.

  18. I have asthma, along with a disturbing list of other conditions. Since I’m told to avoid walking, I now order my prescriptions and OTC’s. Frequently, I get Psuedafed and Mucinex at the same time.
    Like I don’t have enough problems. I’m on such a low dose of pain killers; my primary care doesn’t want me checking out. The War on Drugs became the War on Pain Specialists and their patients. I went through 6 years with a pain specialist that was targeted by the FBI WITHOUT

  19. sorry. I have a lot to say about this, but I’m following FFLeo’s advice, and writing/editing elsewhere. I’m using Mozilla, and it’s not my usual browser, so sorry about the cutoff. Will be back with a better quality post….See you in a couple of days.

  20. This just happen to my father 8 months ago he bought 2 boxes of sudafed cause both of us had a cold. After 8 months they come knocking at our door and say he has a warrant for his arrest and hauled him off to jail he is bailed out but now waiting for a court date and I’m trying to figure out exactly what could happen to him he’s 63 years old and on disablility and a veteran and hoping this doesnt mess with any of his social security or anything

  21. You know Martin, this is an area of privacy that concerns me greatly. I was with a person that bought some OTC meds at Walmart and the information they got was taken off of the state DL. I asked what if someone did not have the DL I was told that they could not purchase. Ok. Try this same ID with purchasing liquor. See how far that gets.

    What was interesting is they asked this person, did you used to live in such and such a state. I was like what? This information is not public but it is put into a government database and then it is discoverable under FOIA. Because it is a record kept in the ordinary course of business and it is not exempt because of a medical determination, ie Dr/patient privilege.

    I was amazed that a store can gather that type of info, just for the government. Sig Heil, sig Heil. What exactly has changed?

  22. “Laws restricting the sale of pseudophedrine are not there to stop people from abusing pseudophedrine – only an idiot would try that because it doesn’t get you high. They are there to prevent people from buying large amounts in order to manufacture methamphetamine and they actually have been quite effective in that sense.”

    John,
    That’s wrong, there are still huge quantities of meth available all over the country, even it seems in Wausilla, Alaska. These laws can have only two major effects:

    1. To characterize and prosecute non-criminals for non-crimes through stupidly over zealous regulations.

    2. To increase the price of meth making more profit for the dealers and causing addicts to “hustle” (commit more crimes/scams) to pay for their habit. The War on Drugs” was a lost cause from day one of its’ inception simply because “Prohibition” in this country actually created more lawlessness and enriched/enlarged organized crime. The War on Drugs has accomplished the exact same thing and has abyssmally failed

    When we stop electing politicians who have simple ineffective solutions, for complex issues, perhaps we can then put things in perspective and come up with better non-criminal solutions. The most ironic thing about the WOD is that its’ greatest supporters are probably the drug cartels themselves. Harsher regulation = higher prices = higher profits.

  23. It’s time jury members started using “Jury Nullification” to counter these oppressive acts of gov’t…..Jury Nullification is the last bastion of freedom / justice for a citizenry being oppressed by a gov’t which issues unjust laws. Each case should be prosecuted and judged by the common law premise of “damage / harm done”….who was damaged, financially or otherwise……Then again, common law assumes common sense….

  24. The problem with jury nullification is that it can never be uniform and is based on the makeup of a jury. Does anyone doubt that a given jury would want to throw the book at this woman and recommend the most severe penalties, while another would vote innocent right after the door to the jury room had closed?

  25. I agree w/ the uniformity issue….it is, however, apparently just as uniform as the prosecutors taking their responsibilities seriously. As I indicated, it is the “last bastion” when lawmakers, law keepers, and the justice system has abondoned us.

    It only takes one person with a little common sense to rectify a wrongfully prosecuted case. I’d much rather put my hands in an EDUCATED jury than in the hands of an unjust system.

    People have to realize what jury nullification is. Most people I talk to don’t know anything about it, and many that do don’t believe it’s “right” to use it…Too many of us have been “indoctrinated” into believing that the law is the law and MUST be followed, that the gov’t is “The Boss”…

    That’s the product of a “gov’t” (public) school system.

  26. In such instances, ‘de jure’ must succumb to ‘de facto’ reasoning by any fair-minded and just juries of any of these “Sudafed cases” that advance to jury trial.

    For most of my adult life, I have opposed de facto jury nullifications, although mine was a vague understanding based on my preference to see enforcement of the ‘letter of the law’ once a case went to trial.

    As I grew older, I gained a greater appreciation for prosecutors and judges using their discretionary powers just as I did as an LEO, which I frequently exercised, although some would—and some did—say that I had no right to be a judge and jury in any case.

    In the final analysis, the proper application of the law is to mete justice and not to persecute citizens through a mindless adherence of enforcing legal dogma, often founded on bureaucratic gobbledygook.

  27. FF Leo,

    Again I think that more “Agency’s” need people such as yourself serving rather than the absurdity that we have today. The underlying thread is indicative of Bull Shit laws and selective enforcement.

  28. “That’s the product of a “gov’t” (public) school system.”

    David W. Murdoch,
    I disagree. To me it is a problem of people who too often fail to question authority and a legal system that rewards people who use their legal authority to advance their political careers. Those I can think of for instance would include J.Edgar Hoover, Tom Dewey, Estes Kefauver, George Bush, Rick Perry and Rudolph Guiliani. Those just reflect the national political scene, on the local level there are hundreds if not thousands more.

    ‘It only takes one person with a little common sense to rectify a wrongfully prosecuted case. I’d much rather put my hands in an EDUCATED jury than in the hands of an unjust system.”

    While the sentiment is true, the reality is that juries put far too much credence in prosecutors and LEO’s

  29. The real travesty is that there is a law for this to begin with. If they wanted to stop the abuse then why not make it a prescription medication?

    If you need it then a doctor can prescribe it for you. If you have seasonal allergies then the doc can perform tests and give you a prescription for an extended period of time.

    Of course some people would take advantage of this system, but it probably wouldn’t be as many and innocent people wouldn’t be getting prosecuted.

    This is another fallacy of reasoning in our legal system in believing that because something is written into law it is ethical. Ethics and law are two independent variable from each other and shouldn’t be misconstrued as interdependent.

    Of course, ethics should guide the formation of laws but more often it is the overzealous nature of politicians that govern the creation of such abominations to people’s personal liberties.

  30. con·gress(kŏng’grĭs) – a pseudo-intelligent group of people who create complicated solutions for simple problems, and simple solutions for complicated problems, with the sole purpose of getting them reelected by self-dealing sections of the general voting populace.

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  33. […] Cooking meth has been a crime.  In an effort to stop the crime they created a new crime, purchasing too much, or having too much in your household.  The intent of the purchase though no longer matters.  Have a house full of sick kids, too bad you're going to jail after your door is kicked in by the SWAT team.  The worst part is, if your jury has no clue about Jury Nullification your ass is going to prison.  Obviously you broke the law as written because you bought or had too much in your household.  Without nullification they would disregard for the fact though that you were using it lawfully and for it's intended purpose.  If you think that type of charge is impossible, think again. […]

  34. Go to the Journal.review.com of Crawfordsville Indiana and type in my name in the search engine. I have a situation similar to Sally’s…. I am also on WLFI.com under the story of “man put behind bars for allergy medication purchase.

    Steve Wixson

  35. […] Cooking meth has been a crime.  In an effort to stop the crime they created a new crime, purchasing too much, or having too much in your household.  The intent of the purchase though no longer matters.  Have a house full of sick kids, too bad you’re going to jail after your door is kicked in by the SWAT team.  The worst part is, if your jury has no clue about Jury Nullification your ass is going to prison.  Obviously you broke the law as written because you bought or had too much in your household.  Without nullification they would disregard for the fact though that you were using it lawfully and for it’s intended purpose.  If you think that type of charge is impossible, think again. […]

  36. I’m so happy and I sleep better at night knowing that this Drug Lady is off the streets. Lets hear it for the zero tolerance War on Drugs…
    Tax dollars and forfeiture booty well spent!

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