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Solomon v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

January 31, 2019

John L. Solomon, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court The Honorable Jose D. Salinas, Judge Trial Court Cause No. 49G14-1704-CM-13921

          Attorney for Appellant Joel M. Schumm Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana George P. Sherman Supervising Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          BROWN, JUDGE

         [¶1] John Solomon appeals his conviction for possession of marijuana as a class B misdemeanor. Solomon raises one issue which we revise and restate as whether his conviction violates his right to liberty and pursuit of happiness under Article 1, Section 1, of the Indiana Constitution. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On April 15, 2017, Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Officer Mitchel Farnsley initiated a traffic stop of a silver Buick near 30th Street and Capitol Avenue in Marion County. There were five occupants in the vehicle, and Solomon was seated in a rear seat. Officer Farnsley discovered that the license plate on the vehicle was for a green Ford Explorer, called for backup, and Officer Haley arrived on the scene. The police observed one of the vehicle's occupants destroying a syringe, and they immediately had the occupants exit the vehicle. The police discovered numerous syringes and some aluminum foil, along with a "marijuana blunt, located directly smooshed between the seat and the back seat . . . where John Solomon's butt would have been sitting." Transcript Volume II at 11. Officer Farnsley read Solomon his Miranda rights. Solomon "stated that nothing in the car was his except for the marijuana blunt." Id. at 12. Solomon also told the police that he was in the vehicle because he was getting a ride to the liquor store.

         [¶3] On April 16, 2017, the State charged Solomon with possession of marijuana as a class B misdemeanor. On August 1, 2018, the court held a bench trial at which Solomon testified that he did not know there was a marijuana blunt beneath him, that the marijuana blunt did not belong to him, and that he told Officer Haley that it did not belong to him. The court found Solomon guilty of possession of marijuana as a class B misdemeanor and sentenced him to twenty days with fourteen days suspended.

         Discussion

         [¶4] Solomon claims that criminalizing the mere possession of a single marijuana blunt by an adult who is not driving or otherwise impacting others violates Article 1, Section 1, of the Indiana Constitution and that his conviction should be vacated. He argues that Ind. Code § 35-48-4-11 may be constitutional in many circumstances and that the challenge here is not a facial one but as applied to the facts of this case.

         [¶5] Ind. Code § 35-48-4-11 provides that a person who knowingly or intentionally possesses marijuana commits possession of marijuana as a class B misdemeanor.

         [¶6] Article 1, Section 1, of the Indiana Constitution ("Section 1") provides:

WE DECLARE, That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their CREATOR with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; that all power is inherent in the PEOPLE; and that all free governments are, and of right ought to be, founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and well-being. For the advancement of these ends, the People have, at all times, an indefeasible right to alter and reform their government.

         [¶7] "A challenge to the constitutionality of a statute is a 'pure question of law,' which we review de novo." State v. Thakar, 82 N.E.3d 257, 259 (Ind. 2017) (citation omitted). "Such review is highly restrained and very deferential, beginning with a presumption of constitutional validity, and therefore the party challenging the statute labors under a heavy burden to show that the statute is unconstitutional." Conley v. State, 972 N.E.2d 864, 877 (Ind. 2012) (citation and internal quotation marks and brackets omitted), reh'g denied. "All statutes are presumptively constitutional, and the court must resolve all reasonable doubts concerning a statute in favor of constitutionality." Thakar, 82 N.E.3d at 259 (citations and internal quotation marks and brackets omitted). "That being said, unlike the higher burden faced by those making a facial constitutional ...


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