Korean Law Firm’s Drug Case: Probation for Meth Sale

In South Korea, the use, sale, smuggling, and even the possession of methamphetamine (in Korea also known as ‘philopon’, or ‘pilopon’) are all strictly prohibited. Although this article will examine a case of meth sales that got a probation sentence, the legal regulations allow for harsh penalties.

1. Legal Penalty Standard for Methamphetamine Offenses in Korea

In recent years, the number of foreigners who have been imprisoned for drug offenses reached a new high. The number of foreigners criminally punished by Korean courts for possessing, administering, importing, exporting, selling, and distributing cannabis, methamphetamine (meth), LSD, etc. has increased fivefold from 2019 to 2023. The fact that around 4 out of 10 drug offenders currently incarcerated in Korean prisons are foreigners reflects these findings. As a result, the Korean customs and immigration have enforced stricter control measures to crack down on drug crimes involving foreigners.

If you are charged with meth-related charges in Korea and found guilty, Korea’s Narcotics Control Act states that the following serious penalties can be imposed according to the drug sentencing guidelines:


Penalties for Methamphetamine Use
The administration/use of methamphetamine is punishable according to the Narcotics Control Act and those who are charged with it can face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won.

Penalties for Methamphetamine Possession
Even the mere possession of methamphetamine is a punishable offense under the Narcotics Control Act, and those in possession of methamphetamine can face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 50 million won.

Penalties for Methamphetamine Distribution
The sale and distribution of methamphetamine is a much more serious offense and is therefore punished very harshly. Legal consequences of selling meth are a possible prison sentence of up to 10 years or a fine of up to 100 million won, and in the case of repeat offenders, heavier penalties may be imposed.

Penalties for Methamphetamine Trafficking
Drug smuggling is considered an international crime, and the penalties for methamphetamine trafficking are severe. Importing or exporting methamphetamine can result in prison sentences of up to 10 years or a fine of up to 100 million won in accordance with the Narcotics Control Act.
Crimes related to meth are treated very seriously in Korean society, and the legal punishments are harsh. Therefore, one should be very careful not to get involved in these crimes.


2. Probation for Selling Methamphetamine in Korea: A Case Overview

The following case involves ‘A’, a Korean American who ran a bar in Yongsan-gu, Korea. ‘D’, an American based in California, is a regular customer of A. He asked to get methamphetamine from A, who was then investigated through his employees ‘B’ and ‘C’ for arranging the sale of methamphetamine. They were ultimately indicted by the Korean prosecution. The methamphetamine that A arranged to sell to D was purchased by employee B through E, a foreigner from Canada. It was discovered that besides buying 20 methamphetamine tablets for 1 million won, B has bought various drugs including LSD and meth from drug dealers several times.

A was charged with arranging methamphetamine sales and put on criminal trial, but the court ultimately sentenced him to probation.


Probation Conditions for Drug Offenses

Probation means that the court has sentenced the accused offender to a maximum sentence of three years in prison, but taking certain reasons into account, decides that instead of holding them in a prison or detention center, they receive a period of 1 to 5 years during which they must comply with their probation terms, such as showing good behavior and not committing any illegal acts. Even a defendant who was detained during the investigation can be free again after receiving a probation sentence.

In the aforementioned case, it was found after further investigation that employee C has bought drugs from B and has taken meth and LSD with B or customers who came to the bar on several occasions. Therefore, he was charged by the prosecution as well. These acts of selling and distributing drugs are felonies, which, in accordance with the Narcotics Control Act, are punishable with a prison sentence of up to 10 years or a fine of up to 100 million won.


Hiring English-Speaking Criminal Defense Lawyers

Since the Korean American A was not fluent in Korean, he appointed our English-speaking criminal defense lawyer from the early stages of the police investigation to prepare for the investigation. Our lawyers’ goal when representing clients in criminal cases is always to conclude a case with a decision of non-indictment, or in other words, without them being charged.

However, in the case that a non-indictment or a suspension of indictment is not possible due to the suspicion of drug possession or use being confirmed by a search and seizure or drug test, our lawyers make it their priority to reduce the scope of the indictment as much as possible from the beginning of the investigation to prevent it from being unreasonably extended based on unfounded allegations.
The reason for this is that reducing the scope of the indictment as much as possible increases your chances of getting probation and being released.


3. A Korean Criminal Attorney’s Drug Defense Strategy for Foreigners

Strategy of a Criminal Lawyer specializing in Narcotics Cases

In this case, our lawyers were able to reduce the scope of the indictment to a minimum by examining these aspects to support our defense:

– whether it can be held that investigators have unlawfully collected evidence during the investigation stage,
– whether the defendant’s legal rights, such as the Miranda rights, have been violated,
– whether the allegations made have been specified in accordance with the legal requirements, and
– whether the charge can be dismissed from the investigation because there is no evidence to support the suspicion.


Legal Defense against Meth Possession, Sales, Smuggling Charges

However, the offense was judged to be of serious nature since the suspects had not only possessed and used methamphetamine, but by also selling drugs to other people they have contributed to the distribution of drugs within Korean society. Therefore, an indictment by the prosecution was inevitable, and it was fully expected that the offenders would receive prison sentences. In a case like this, criminal defense lawyers should focus all their efforts on reducing the sentence.

To reduce the sentence, the lawyers try to show that a defendant deserves a second chance by pointing out:
– that the defendant confessed and admitted their wrongdoing,
– that they showed sincere remorse,
– that they were first-time offenders who had not been punished for a similar offense,
– that they have been running a business in Korea and living earnestly for a long time,
– that they expressed a sincere willingness to stay away from drugs,
– that they have healthy relationships with families and acquaintances, who have pleaded that the defendant should be granted leniency.

As a result, the Korean court sentenced the defendants in this case to 10 months in prison, but with a probation period of three years, allowing them to avoid being sent to prison and instead to remain free.


Foreigner-friendly Lawyers 

Nonetheless, it is important to note that foreigners will still be subject to a review by the immigration office regarding a possible deportation, even if they did not end up receiving legal punishment. These immigration policies reflect the Korean government’s strong will to eradicate drug crimes. But due to our criminal attorneys’ strong determination to defend foreigners, we continue to help our clients even during the screening process at the immigration office in Korea.
Through these efforts, our client was ultimately not deported and he continues to live in Korea with his family.


4. Conclusion (Korean Law Firm’s Drug Case)

Our lawyers defend our clients from the early stages of a drug crime investigation. Lee & Lee Law firm represents foreigners, and our lawyer is a criminal lawyer specialized in narcotics and drug crime defense who personally communicates with clients in English.

If we discover that our client has said something incorrect to law enforcement during the arrest procedures or investigation due to a language barrier, we immediately correct it and take action to prevent the client from being disadvantaged by such misunderstandings. We also actively intervene in any phone/digital forensic procedures and take preemptive measures to prevent unfavorable evidence against our client from being confiscated.

Although our client in this case was charged, we successfully reduced the scope of the investigation and prosecution against the client with the expertise of our criminal defense law firm and our drug crime attorney’s effective strategy for a meth sale and possession defense. Additionally, the Korean-American client has built a life and business in Korea and the client’s family here has persuasively conveyed their support of him to the judge, which resulted in the suspension of sentence.


Probation sentence in Methamphetamine: Meth Drug Law Firm Korea case


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