People v. Norman

Decision Date18 May 1989
Docket NumberDocket No. 103206
PartiesPEOPLE of the State of Michigan, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Jay Clark NORMAN, Defendant-Appellant.
CourtCourt of Appeal of Michigan — District of US

Frank J. Kelley, Atty. Gen., Louis J. Caruso, Sol. Gen., L. Brooks Patterson, Pros. Atty., Robert C. Williams, Chief, Appellate Div., and Janice A. Kabodian, Asst. Pros. Atty., for the People.

Paul M. Stoychoff, Franklin, for defendant-appellant on appeal.

Before MURPHY, P.J., and WEAVER and McDONALD, JJ.

WEAVER, Judge.

Defendant was convicted by a jury of possession of liquor in prison, M.C.L. Sec. 800.281; M.S.A. Sec. 28.1621. Defendant also pled guilty to being an habitual offender, fourth offense, M.C.L. Sec. 769.12; M.S.A. Sec. 28.1084. After vacating the sentence on defendant's underlying offense of possession of liquor in prison, the trial court sentenced defendant to a prison term of 1 1/2 to 5 years on the habitual offender plea. Defendant appeals as of right. We affirm.

I

Defendant was caught with a sealed bottle of Arrow Peppermint Schnapps, an alcoholic liquor, which he had hidden in the groin area of his trousers upon his return to the Pontiac Correction Center where he resided as a new inmate. Testimony adduced at trial indicated that when defendant returned to the center on August 29, 1986, at approximately 10:30 p.m., he appeared to be drunk. While engaging in a routine pat-down search of defendant, two officers discovered the bottle. During the search but prior to removal of the bottle from his pants, however, defendant denied possessing anything improper.

Following jury selection defense counsel informed the court that a counselor from the Oakland County Jail, who purportedly was familiar with defendant's alcohol dependency and who had been subpoenaed as a witness, was unavailable to testify due to an illness. Although defense counsel stated that the witness was not a res gestae witness and was not essential to the defense, defendant requested an adjournment to enable the witness to testify. The court denied the request. Before hearing defendant's testimony and after listening to defendant explain that the testimony of the proposed witness was proffered to establish that defendant was diagnosed as an alcoholic, the court concluded that the proffered testimony was unnecessary in light of the parties' stipulation to the bottle's alcoholic contents and to admission of a document indicating defendant's alcoholism.

During opening argument, defense counsel argued that defendant should be acquitted because he was an alcoholic and at the time of the offense was too inebriated to have knowingly and intentionally brought the bottle of alcohol into the center. After hearing the testimony, the trial court, without objection, instructed the jury that specific intent was required to convict defendant of possessing liquor in prison. However, the court did not instruct on intoxication as a defense, and defense counsel made no request. The jury returned a guilty verdict. Defendant subsequently pled guilty to being an habitual offender, fourth offense, and was sentenced.

II

On appeal, defendant argues that the trial court abused its discretion in denying defendant's request for an adjournment, that defense counsel's failure to request an instruction on intoxication as a defense amounted to ineffective assistance of counsel, and that the trial court erred by not instructing the jury, sua sponte, on intoxication as a defense.

Each of defendant's arguments turns on the question of whether possession of liquor in prison, M.C.L. Sec. 800.281; M.S.A. Sec. 28.1621, is a specific intent crime. We do not believe that it is.

In resolving disputed interpretations of statutory language, it is the function of the reviewing court to effectuate legislative intent. If the language of the statute is clear and its meaning unambiguous, a common-sense reading of the statute will suffice and no interpretation is necessary. Karl v. Bryant Air Conditioning Co., 416 Mich. 558, 567, 331 N.W.2d 456 (1982); State Farm Mutual Automobile Ins. Co. v. Wyant, 154 Mich.App. 745, 749-750, 398 N.W.2d 517 (1986). We find the language of the statute which proscribes the possession of liquor in prison, M.C.L. Sec. 800.281; M.S.A. Sec. 28.1621, to be clear and unambiguous. Therefore a common-sense reading of the statute will suffice.

A common-sense reading of this statute does not lead to the conclusion that proof of specific intent is required for a conviction. M.C.L. Sec. 800.281(3); M.S.A. Sec. 28.1621(3) provides: "Except as provided in section 2 [medical prescription], a person shall not bring any alcoholic liquor, prescription drug, poison, or controlled substance into or onto a correctional facility." The preface to this act states that the purpose of the act is to prohibit or limit access by inmates to certain weapons, alcoholic liquors, and drugs. 1 Read as a whole, the language of the statute does not support the proposition that the Legislature intended specific intent to be an element of the crime. Conspicuously absent from this language are words such as "knowingly," "wilfully" and "intentionally," which are words traditionally...

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7 cases
  • People v. Ramsdell
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • June 23, 1998
    ...possess any alcoholic liquor, prescription drug, poison, or controlled substance." As this Court said in People v. Norman, 176 Mich.App. 271, 274, 438 N.W.2d 895 (1989): In resolving disputed interpretations of statutory language, it is the function of the reviewing court to effectuate legi......
  • People v. Maynor
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • May 29, 2003
    ...the carjacking statute34 and found that the crime of carjacking was not a specific-intent crime. Citing American Medical Centers and People v. Norman,35 the Davenport panel stated, "[w]ords typically found in specific intent statutes include `knowingly,' `willfully,' `purposely,' and `inten......
  • People v. Wyngaard
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • December 12, 1997
    ...to support a jury finding on this element. We disagree. Specific intent is not an element of this offense. People v. Norman, 176 Mich.App. 271, 274-275, 438 N.W.2d 895 (1989). Further, prosecution witnesses testified that defendant admitted knowing he was in possession of marijuana. Therefo......
  • People v. Lange
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Michigan — District of US
    • August 23, 2002
    ...as opposed to merely using an object to imply the presence of a weapon. Id. at 392, 585 N.W.2d 1, quoting People v. Norman, 176 Mich.App. 271, 274, 438 N.W.2d 895 (1989) ("`If the language of the statute is clear and its meaning unambiguous, a common-sense reading of the statute will suffic......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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