from the Clinton Superior Court The Honorable Justin H.
Hunter, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 12D01-1704-F5-412
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Alicia M. O'Keefe Law Offices of
Richard D. Martin & Associates Frankfort, Indiana.
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
of Indiana Katherine Cooper Deputy Attorney General
VAIDIK, CHIEF JUDGE.
In this interlocutory appeal, Tyler Dale Knutson challenges
the trial court's denial of his motion to dismiss his
charge for Level 5 felony unlawful possession of a syringe.
Because we conclude that the offense of unlawful possession
of a syringe cannot be enhanced to a Level 5 felony based on
a prior conviction pursuant to Indiana Code section
16-42-19-27 and can only be charged as a Level 6 felony, we
reverse the trial court's denial of Knutson's motion
to dismiss and order the court to dismiss the Level 5 felony
and Procedural History
In April 2017, the State charged Knutson with unlawful
possession of a syringe, which is a Level 6 felony under
Indiana Code section 16-42-19-18. Appellant's App. Vol.
II p. 10. The State filed a separate document to
enhance the charge to a Level 5 felony based on a prior
conviction pursuant to Indiana Code section 16-42-19-27.
Id. at 9. Knutson filed a motion to dismiss, arguing
that there was "no statutory authority for elevation
of this offense from a level 6 felony, to a level 5 felony,
based upon a prior conviction for the offense."
Id. at 43. Following a hearing, the trial court
denied Knutson's motion to dismiss. At Knutson's
request, the trial court certified its order for
interlocutory appeal, and this Court accepted jurisdiction of
The issue is whether unlawful possession of a syringe can be
elevated from a Level 6 felony to a Level 5 felony based on a
prior conviction pursuant to Indiana Code section
16-42-19-27. Matters of statutory interpretation, which
inherently present a pure question of law, are reviewed de
novo. Shepard v. State, 84 N.E.3d 1171, 1173 (Ind.
In interpreting a statute, our goal is to determine and give
effect to the intent of the legislature. State v. IBM
Corp., 964 N.E.2d 206, 209 (Ind. 2012). We start with
the plain language of the statute, giving its words their
ordinary meaning and considering the structure of the statute
as a whole. Ind. Alcohol & Tobacco Comm'n v.
Spirited Sales, LLC, 79 N.E.3d 371, 376 (Ind. 2017). No
word or part of the statute should be rendered meaningless if
it can be reconciled with the rest of the statute.
Id. When the legislature amends a statute, we
presume that it intended to change the law unless it clearly
appears that the amendment was made only to express the
original intention of the legislature more clearly.
Tedlock v. State, 656 N.E.2d 273, 276 (Ind.Ct.App.
Indiana Code chapter 16-42-19 sets forth several criminal
offenses, most of which concern the possession, use, and sale
of legend drugs. With one exception, none of the sections
in Chapter 19 sets forth the offense level for a violation.
See, e.g., Ind. Code § 16-42-19-13. Rather,
Indiana Code section 16-42-19-27 ("the general
offense-level statute") sets forth the offense levels
for violations as follows:
(a) Unless otherwise specified, a person who knowingly
violates this chapter, except sections 25(b) and 30(c) of
this chapter, commits a Level 6 felony. However, the offense
is a Level 5 felony if the person has a prior conviction
under this subsection or IC 16-6-8-10(a) before its repeal.
(b) A person who violates section 25(b) of this chapter
commits dealing in an anabolic steroid, a Level 5 felony.
However, the offense is a Level 4 felony if the person