State v. Udin

Decision Date01 August 1980
Docket NumberNo. 78-440-C,78-440-C
Citation419 A.2d 251
PartiesSTATE v. Yale UDIN. A.
CourtRhode Island Supreme Court

MURRAY, Justice.

The defendant Yale Udin was the owner of Blanding and Blanding Drug Company (Blanding and Blanding or company) which operated two pharmacies located in Providence. On May 18, 1977, the Rhode Island Division of Drug Control, Department of Health, conducted an audit of the company's Broad Street store. The auditors uncovered alleged irregularities that prompted the state to file an eleven-count indictment against the defendant. A Superior Court jury convicted the defendant on one count for obtaining money under false pretenses in violation of G.L.1956 (1969 Reenactment) §§ 11-41-4 and 11-41-5, on four counts for giving false documents to a public employee in violation of § 11-18-1, and on one count for violating G.L.1956 (1968 Reenactment) § 21-28-4.02, as enacted by P.L.1974, ch. 183, § 2, for failing to preserve copies of official written orders for controlled substances as required by § 21-28-3.11. On appeal to this court, the defendant raises several claims of error.


First, defendant challenges his conviction under § 21-28-4.02 1 of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (act) for failing to preserve copies of orders for controlled substances as required by § 21-28-3.11 of that act. He asserts that the trial justice's instructions construing the scope of § 21-28-3.11 were incorrect, and alternatively he claims that the crime charged was unconstitutionally vague because § 21-28-3.11 failed to provide him with adequate notice that he was required to preserve copies of orders for controlled substances. We shall address the constitutional question only if we determine that the trial justice's instructions were proper. See State v. Simmons, 114 R.I. 16, 18, 327 A.2d 843, 844 (1974). Thus, the threshold question concerns the propriety of the trial justice's construction of § 21-28-3.11 of the act.

In adopting the act, the Legislature sought to regulate, control, and trace the flow of substances which pose a danger to public health. State v. Mann, R.I., 382 A.2d 1319, 1321 (1978). To ensure the availability of controlled substances for medical and research needs and yet to prevent the improper diversion of such substances, 2 the Legislature created Article III of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, §§ 21-28-3.01-21-28-3.30. Article III establishes a comprehensive system for registration and regulation of every person 3 who manufactures, distributes, prescribes, administers, or dispenses any controlled substance within this state. Section 21-28-3.02.

Insofar as is relevant to this case, §§ 21-28-3.02 and 21-28-3.03(c) within Article III require licensed practitioners to obtain annually a registration issued by the State Director of Health to dispense any controlled substances. Pharmacies are subject to this requirement because they are included in the definition of a practitioner in § 21-28-1.02(29)(b). The company's Broad Street pharmacy was registered with the State Department of Health with Yale Udin's signature appearing on the registration applications.

Within Article III the Legislature also included a system of administrative controls to trace and regulate the flow of controlled substances among registrants. The extensive scheme includes § 21-28-3.10, which authorizes duly licensed manufacturers and wholesalers to sell and distribute controlled substances to practitioners, among others, on official written orders. The statutory provision here at issue, § 21-28-3.11, 4 prescribes rules for signing, presenting, and preserving such official written orders. 5

At defendant's trial, the State Administrator of the Division of Drug Control (administrator) testified that the division possessed copies of official written orders 6 that Blanding and Blanding had presented to suppliers during the pertinent time period to procure controlled substances for the Broad Street store. 7 The administrator testified that during the audit on May 18, 1977, he had served an administrative subpoena upon defendant that ordered defendant to produce, among other records, the store's copies of official written orders executed over the previous two-year period. Presumably those copies would have corresponded to the copies in the Division of Drug Control's possession. On cross-examination, the administrator testified that the store's copies of official written orders executed during that period were not among the records produced.

Following the presentation of evidence, the trial justice instructed the jury to consider two factual elements to determine whether defendant had failed to comply with § 21-28-3.11 in violation of § 21-28-4.02. The first concerned whether defendant was a party to the pertinent transactions for controlled substances. The trial justice instructed the members of the jury to determine whether either defendant or Blanding and Blanding was a party to any pertinent transaction for controlled substances. He told them that if they were to determine that the company was such a party, they should determine then, in addition, whether defendant was the owner of Blanding and Blanding. If the jury were to find that the state had proven the first element beyond a reasonable doubt, the trial justice instructed them to consider next a second element. That element consisted of determining whether one or more of the copies of the relevant DEA 222C forms were not preserved for inspection.

The defendant's exception as a matter of statutory construction to the trial justice's instructions centers on who is the "party to the transaction" charged with preserving copies of official written orders. He notes that the term "party" is not included in § 21-28-1.02, the definitional section of the act, and claims that the legislative intent concerning its meaning in § 21-28-3.11 is ambiguous. Basing his argument on an application of § 21-28-3.11 which he hopes will absolve him of liability rather than offer an analysis of the statutory language, defendant argues that "party" refers solely to the person in charge of ordering and receiving controlled substances. 8 To rule otherwise, defendant claims, would impose strict criminal liability in connection with the preservation of copies of official written orders on persons who own pharmacies. Thus, defendant contends that the trial justice should have instructed the jury to consider whether he was subject to the requirements of § 21-28-3.11 only if they determined that he was the person who ordered and received controlled substances.

The state argues in rebuttal that defendant seeks to apply the statute far too narrowly, thereby limiting its scope inconsistently with legislative intent. The state claims, on the assumption that defendant acted through his employees in all phases of his business, that he was the "person giving said order" through "his duly authorized agent." The state concludes that defendant was therefore a "party to the transaction" required to "preserve his copy of such order for a period of two (2) years." So construed, the state argues that § 21-28-3.11 places the burden of preserving copies of official written orders on defendant. The state maintains further that delegation of that task to employees did not relieve defendant of the ultimate responsibility for ensuring that such copies were preserved. Thus, according to the state, defendant's failure to perform the duty imposed under § 21-28-3.11 subjects him to sanctions provided in § 21-28-4.02.

We adhere to the elementary canon of statutory construction which requires us to discern statutory intent from the words of the statute if they are free from ambiguity and express a reasonable meaning. State v. Angell, R.I., 405 A.2d 10, 15 (1979); Little v. Conflict of Interest Commission, R.I., 397 A.2d 884, 887 (1979). When ascertaining legislative intent, we consider statutory language in its contextual relation to the section as a whole. Easton v. Fessenden, 65 R.I. 259, 264, 14 A.2d 508, 511 (1940); see Flanagan v. Pierce Chevrolet, Inc., R.I., 410 A.2d 428 (1980); Deignan v. Cowan Plastics Products Corporation, 99 R.I. 193, 196, 206 A.2d 534, 536 (1965). Although when read in isolation the words "party to the transaction" are susceptible of ambiguity, we do not believe they are ambiguous when parsed contextually.

In § 21-28-3.11 the Legislature provided that

"An official written order for any controlled substance shall be signed in duplicate by the person giving said order or by his duly authorized agent. The original shall be presented to the person who sells or distributes the controlled substances named therein. In the event of the acceptance of such order by said person, each party to the transaction shall preserve his copy of such order for a period of two years (2) years in such a way as to be readily accessible for inspection by any public officer or employee engaged in the enforcement of this chapter. It shall be deemed a compliance with this section if the parties to the transaction have complied with the federal law respecting the requirements governing the use of order forms."

The first sentence in § 21-28-3.11, relating to the signing of official written orders in duplicate, is predicated on a "person giving said order"-that is, an official written order-for the purchase of controlled substances. The statute next requires that the original copy of the official written order be presented to the person who sells or distributes the controlled substances. The necessary inference is that this requirement is imposed on the person giving the official written order. If the person to whom the original copy of the official written order has been presented then accepts the order, the statute requires "each party to...

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5 cases
  • State v. Oliveira
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Supreme Court
    • August 5, 2005
    ...system of substances control which is, to the extent possible, uniform with the laws of the United States.'" Id. (quoting State v. Udin, 419 A.2d 251, 257 (R.I.1980) and G.L.1956 § 21-28-1.01(b)(5)). The federal analogue to RICSA is the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act. I......
  • State v. Shafer
    • United States
    • Court of Appeals of New Mexico
    • February 21, 1985
    ...may not be used for this purpose unless the testifying witness has adopted the statement in some manner as his own." State v. Udin, 419 A.2d 251, 260-61 (R.I.1980). There is no evidence that Carll adopted Stevens' affidavit as her own statement. Therefore, the trial court properly denied th......
  • State v. Reis
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Supreme Court
    • February 10, 2003
    ...When interpreting the act, we are well aware that the General Assembly did not pass that legislation in a vacuum. See State v. Udin, 419 A.2d 251, 257 (R.I.1980). "Rather, federal law provided the regulatory milieu in which our act was enacted, and our act represents an attempt `to establis......
  • State v. Gardiner
    • United States
    • Rhode Island Supreme Court
    • April 25, 2006
    ..."page 15" of the instructions, he nevertheless provided an adequate record, which is all that he was required to do. See State v. Udin, 419 A.2d 251, 263 (R.I.1980) (although defendant's failure to provide complete transcript "hampered our inquiry," the record was nevertheless adequate to a......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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