Last March, Sally Harpold, an Indiana grandmother of triplets, bought two boxes of cold medication in less than a week. Together, the two boxes contained 3.6 grams of pseudoephedrine, putting her in violation of the state's methamphetamine-fighting law, which forbids the purchase of more than three grams by one person in a seven-day period.
Police came to Harpold's home, arrested and handcuffed her, and booked her in a Vermillion County jail. No one believes Harpold was making meth or aiding anyone who was. But local authorities aren't apologizing for her arrest.
"I don't want to go there again," [Vermillion County Prosecutor Nina] Alexander told the Tribune-Star, recalling how the manufacture and abuse of methamphetamine ravaged the tiny county and its families.
While the law was written with the intent of stopping people from purchasing large quantities of drugs to make methamphetamine, the law does not say the purchase must be made with the intent to make meth.
"The law does not make this distinction," Alexander said…
Just as with any law, the public has the responsibility to know what is legal and what is not, and ignorance of the law is no excuse, the prosecutor said.
"I'm simply enforcing the law as it was written," Alexander said…
It is up to customers to pay attention to their purchase amounts, and to check medication labels, Alexander said.
"If you take these products, you ought to know what's in them," she said.
Harpold's photo was put on the front page of the local paper as part of an article about the arrest of 17 people in a "drug sweep." Alexander has generously allowed Harpold to enter a deferral program. If she commits no crimes in the next 30 days, her arrest will be wiped from her record. She'll still have to pay court costs and attorney fees.
I'll leave it to Vigo County Sheriff Jon Marvel to (unintentionally) put an exclamation point on the absurdity.
"Sometimes mistakes happen," Marvel said. "It's unfortunate. But for the good of everyone, the law was put into effect.
"I feel for her, but if she could go to one of the area hospitals and see a baby born to a meth-addicted mother …"
Because clearly the best way to prevent meth-addicted babies is to arrest women who buy cold medication for their grandchildren.