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High court defines 'briefly'

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In two cases involving a statutory defense to possession or dealing of drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, the Indiana Supreme Court defined the term "briefly" and ruled on whether the defendants were briefly near schools when they committed their crimes.

The high court granted transfer to Reynaldo A. Griffin v. State of Indiana, No. 71S03-0907-CR-333, and Stephan M. Gallagher v. State of Indiana, No. 15S04-0909-CR-405, to address the meaning and application of the statutory term "briefly." Reynaldo Griffin was convicted of Class B felony possession of cocaine with 1,000 feet of school property. Stephan Gallagher was convicted of Class A felony dealing in a schedule II controlled substance within 1,000 feet of school property.

Griffin was stopped around 2 a.m. June 25, 2006, by police while he was pushing a moped along a street adjacent to school property because the officer thought the moped could be stolen. The officer estimated Griffin had been walking by the school for nearly five minutes when he stopped him. The officer found cocaine under the moped.

Gallagher met with a law enforcement agent Nov. 29, 2005, at an arranged meeting site behind a pharmacy that was near a school to sell pills. The meeting happened in the middle of the night and he was near the school for approximately 20 minutes.

Both Griffin and Gallagher asserted the statutory defense for their respective charges that their sentences shouldn't be enhanced because they were only briefly within 1,000 feet of the schools and no children were around at the time of the crimes. Gallagher also argued he was near the school at the request of the law enforcement agent.

In Griffin, the justices decided "briefly" implies a relative comparison and isn't the mere abstract passage of a discrete period of time. When a defendant's presence in the proscribed area is primarily for a purpose other than the illegal activity, the risk to children is smaller and briefly could encompass a greater duration of time, wrote Justice Brent Dickson. But when the defendant is in the area to engage in drug activity, especially if the activity is visible to children, even a relatively short intrusion in the area would be more than brief and shouldn't excuse the defendant from the enhancement.

"We therefore understand 'briefly,' as used in the statutory enhancement defense, to mean a period of time no longer than reasonably necessary for a defendant's intrusion into the proscribed zone principally for conduct unrelated to unlawful drug activities, provided that the defendant's activities related to the charged offense are not visible," wrote the justice.

The high court overturned Griffin's Class B felony conviction because the state didn't prove his presence within 1,000 feet of the school lasted longer than reasonably necessary to push the moped down the street, nor did the state prove there were any children present. The justices remanded for the trial court to impose the conviction and sentence as Class D felony possession of cocaine.

But the justices upheld Gallagher's conviction because he was behind the pharmacy near the school to sell drugs, even if no children were present. They also rejected Gallagher's argument that the state failed to rebut the statutory defense applicable to his charge that he went behind the pharmacy at the request of a law enforcement agent. The evidence was inconsistent as to who selected the location, and the Supreme Court declined to reweigh the evidence. The high court also affirmed Gallagher's sentence.

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  1. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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