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Court rejects man's explanation of 'briefly'

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A man charged with a drug dealing offense near a school wasn’t entitled to a jury instruction stating he was only “briefly” within 1,000 feet of school property because the drug transaction was short in time even though it happened at his house, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today.

Clarence Seeley Jr. appealed his conviction of dealing in a schedule III controlled substance as a Class A felony since he was within 1,000 feet of a school when dealing, and the finding he is an habitual offender. Seeley sold pills containing hydroquinone during a controlled drug buy from his home that lasted between five and 10 minutes. His property is 545 feet from a church’s school property and his front door is around 800 feet from the front door of the school.

The state proffered a jury instruction that said it’s a defense that the defendant was briefly in, on, or within 1,000 feet of school property and no one under the age of 18 was in, on, or within 1,000 of the school property at the time of the offense. The court refused the instruction on the basis that because Seeley lived where the drug buy happened, he was there for more than just a mere passing.

Seeley believed the jury instruction should have been allowed and the term briefly should have reflected the time of the drug buy, not how long he was within 1,000 feet the school. Thus, the statutory defense would be available to him, and he was entitled to have the jury instructed accordingly.

Citing Griffin v. State, 925 N.E.2d 344, 347, 349-50 (Ind. 2010), Judge Edward Najam wrote in Clarence Seeley, Jr. v. State of Indiana, No. 21A05-1003-CR-167, that the “briefly” language relates to Seeley’s presence in the prescribed zone, not the length of the transaction.

“To be sure, in some scenarios the defendant’s presence in the proscribed zone will be coextensive with the illegal transaction,” he wrote. “But that is not the case here, where Seeley lived within 1,000 feet of school property.”

Seeley also argued because of his extended stay in the proscribed zone that he is entitled to the statutory defense. He claimed the length of the transaction is what matters here because when taking in context his total stay in the proscribed zone, the time spent on the illegal transaction only minimally increased the risk to children.

“Applying ‘briefly’ in the manner asserted by Seeley would wholly negate that prong of the statutory defense. When a defendant lives in the proscribed zone and he has turned his home into a place where controlled substances may be illegally purchased, he cannot be in the proscribed zone only ‘briefly,’” wrote the judge.

The Court of Appeals also upheld that the state’s evidence of the testimony of the county surveyor regarding the distance between Seeley’s property and the school’s property was sufficient for the jury to find the property was school property. The judges reversed the habitual offender finding as his previous convictions were insufficient as a matter of law for him to be found to be a habitual offender. They remanded for re-sentencing.
 

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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