WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to review an Oklahoma law that made it illegal for people to buy cold medicine with pseudoephedrine if they had previously been convicted of methamphetamine-related crimes.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals struck down provisions of the law last year because there were no mechanisms to notify the people who could no longer buy the drug. Without comment, the U.S. Supreme Court effectively affirmed the state court's ruling.
The case involved Angela Michelle Wolf, who purchased cold medicine with pseudoephedrine several times in Garfield County after the 2010 law took effect.
Wolf was on probation in a previous case in which she pleaded guilty to possessing pseudoephedrine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine.
After being charged under the 2010 law, Wolf initially pleaded guilty to five felony counts of unlawfully purchasing pseudoephedrine and was sentenced to 14 years in prison on each count.
But she withdrew the plea and challenged the constitutionality of the law, arguing that she didn't know she was committing a crime by purchasing a product that was legal for most people to buy.
The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals agreed, saying “when otherwise lawful conduct is criminalized, the criminal statute must provide sufficient notice for a person to know she is committing a crime.”
State sought review
Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt sought Supreme Court review. He argued that Wolf's ignorance of the law was not an excuse.
Because of laws, regulations and public awareness campaigns in Oklahoma about methamphetamine abuse, people are on notice that buying pseudoephedrine is regulated in the state, Pruitt argued.
Because of her previous case, Wolf should have known about those regulations, the attorney general said.
The law created a registry of offenders that was supposed to prevent pharmacists from selling the drug to people on the banned list.
However, the way the law worked, only people who were convicted of meth-related crimes after the law took effect made it on the registry, according to Wolf's attorney.
There was no way to add people such as Wolf — whose crime occurred years before the law took effect — to the list.
Beginning Nov. 1, an amendment to the law will require the state to notify those convicted of meth offenses that they are subject to the meth registry and cannot purchase pseudoephedrine.
“We respect the court's decision, and we're thankful the state was proactive in addressing the issue,” Pruitt said.
“These measures will comply with the court's ruling and help keep this drug out of the hands of criminals.”