Sally 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.”
The 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.
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