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Knutson v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

May 31, 2018

Tyler Dale Knutson, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal 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 Indianapolis, Indiana.

          VAIDIK, CHIEF JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] 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 enhancement.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] 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.[1] 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.[2] 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 appeal.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶3] 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. 2017).

         [¶4] 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. 1995).

         [¶5] Indiana Code chapter 16-42-19 sets forth several criminal offenses, most of which concern the possession, use, and sale of legend drugs.[3] 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 ...

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