Court rejects man's explanation of 'briefly'

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

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.


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. Freedom From Religion Foundation: If you really want to be free from religion, don't go to the Christmas Play or the Christmas Pageant or the Christmas Parade. Anything with "Christ" or Saint...fill in the blank...would be off limits to you. Then leave the rest of us ALONE!

  2. So the prosecutor made an error and the defendants get a full remedy. Just one short paragraph to undo the harm of the erroneous prosecution. Wow. Just wow.

  3. Wake up!!!! Lawyers are useless!! it makes no difference in any way to speak about what is important!! Just dont tell your plans to the "SELFRIGHTEOUS ARROGANT JERKS!! WHO THINK THEY ARE BETTER THAN ANOTHER MAN/WOMAN!!!!!!

  4. Looks like you dont understand Democracy, Civilized Society does not cut a thiefs hands off, becouse now he cant steal or write or feed himself or learn !!! You deserve to be over punished, Many men are mistreated hurt in many ways before a breaking point happens! grow up !!!

  5. It was all that kept us from tyranny. So sad that so few among the elite cared enough to guard the sacred trust. Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law. Sophocles No man is above the law and no man is below it; nor do we ask any man's permission when we ask him to obey it. Obedience to the law is demanded as a right; not asked as a favor. Theodore Roosevelt That was the ideal ... here is the Hoosier reality: The King can do no wrong. Legal maxim From the Latin 'Rex non potest peccare'. When the President does it, that means that it is not illegal. Richard Nixon