COA: Church not a 'youth program center'

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed a man's Class A felony conviction of possession of cocaine, finding he wasn't within 1,000 feet of a "youth program center" because the building is a church running mostly faith-based programs. It's an issue of first impression for Indiana courts.

In Walker Whatley v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0809-CR-808, Walker Whatley argued that Robinson Community Church, which was within 1,000 feet of where he was arrested, isn't considered a youth program center for purposes of Indiana Code Section 35-48-4-6. He claimed the criminal statute and statute defining youth program center are unconstitutionally vague as applied to him. The criminal statute at issue here doesn't punish possession with 1,000 feet of a church.

The issue of felony enhancement for a violation of a "drug free zone" defined as a youth program center hasn't been the subject of an Indiana decision yet, wrote Senior Judge Patrick Sullivan.

Whatley argued because the church bears no identifier to signify it as a "youth program center," the statute provides no basis for individuals to know they are within 1,000 feet of one. He also argued the Indiana statutory scheme relative to youth program centers is fatally flawed because no bright-line rule is presented that would put a person of ordinary intelligence on notice that a person is within 1,000 feet of an unmarked youth program center. But according to Polk v. State, 683 N.E.2d 567 (Ind. 1997), such knowledge or notice isn't required for constitutionality, wrote Senior Judge Sullivan.

Examining cases from other jurisdictions, the appellate court unanimously decided Robinson Community Church was and remains a church and isn't converted into a youth program center by reason of its faith-based activities for young people. The pastor of the church even testified that all of the services and events for children are essentially faith based.

"Bi-weekly Girl Scout troop meetings and mentoring of children by adult members of the congregation were accessory or incidental to the existence and identity as a church. The church was not a youth program center. It remained a church notwithstanding the incidental activities not solely religious in nature," he wrote.

The Court of Appeals reversed Whatley's conviction and remanded for an entry of a conviction as a Class C felony and to sentence him accordingly.


Post a comment to this story

We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. Heritage, what Heritage? The New Age is dawning .... an experiment in disordered liberty and social fragmentation is upon us .... "Carmel City Council approved a human rights ordinance with a 4-3 vote Monday night after hearing about two hours of divided public testimony. The ordinance bans discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, among other traits. Council members Rick Sharp, Carol Schleif, Sue Finkam and Ron Carter voted in favor of it. The three council members opposing it—Luci Snyder, Kevin Rider and Eric Seidensticker—all said they were against any form of discrimination, but had issues with the wording and possible unintended consequences of the proposal." Kardashian is the new Black.

  2. Can anyone please tell me if anyone is appealing the law that certain sex offenders can't be on school property. How is somebody supposed to watch their children's sports games or graduations, this law needs revised such as sex offenders that are on school property must have another non-offender adult with them at all times while on school property. That they must go to the event and then leave directly afterwards. This is only going to hurt the children of the offenders and the father/ son mother/ daughter vice versa relationship. Please email me and let me know if there is a group that is appealing this for reasons other than voting and religion. Thank you.

  3. Should any attorney who argues against the abortion industry, or presents arguments based upon the Founders' concept of Higher Law, (like that marriage precedes the State) have to check in with the Judges and Lawyers Assistance Program for a mandatory mental health review? Some think so ... that could certainly cut down on cases such as this "cluttering up" the SCOTUS docket ... use JLAP to deny all uber conservative attorneys licenses and uber conservative representation will tank. If the ends justify the means, why not?

  4. Tell them sherry Mckay told you to call, they're trying to get all the people that have been wronged and held unlawfully to sign up on this class action lawsuit.

  5. Call Young and Young aAttorneys at Law theres ones handling a class action lawsuit