State v. Vaughn, ED109264

CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)
Writing for the CourtKelly C. Broniec, Judge
Decision Date28 December 2021
PartiesSTATE OF MISSOURI, Appellant, v. JOSEPH E. VAUGHN, Respondent.
Docket NumberED109264


JOSEPH E. VAUGHN, Respondent.

No. ED109264

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, First Division

December 28, 2021

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Jefferson County Honorable Victor J. Melenbrink

Kelly C. Broniec, Judge

I. Introduction

The State of Missouri ("State") appeals from the circuit court's order granting the motion to dismiss criminal charges filed against Joseph E. Vaughn ("Defendant"). On appeal, the State argues that the circuit court erred in granting Defendant's motion to dismiss because § 195.205[1]"effectively amended" §§ 579.015 and 579.074, the drug and drug paraphernalia possession statutes the State charged Defendant with violating, therefore § 1.160 should apply to prohibit retroactive application of § 195.205.

We affirm.


II. Factual and Procedural Background

On April 1, 2017, police responded to a call about an attempted suicide by drug overdose. Police found Defendant unconscious, with a syringe sticking out of his sock and eight empty capsules lying nearby. At least one of the capsules had contained fentanyl, a controlled substance. On August 28, 2017, Missouri's "Good Samaritan Law," § 195.205, went into effect. The statute states:

A person who, in good faith, seeks or obtains medical assistance for someone who is experiencing a drug or alcohol overdose or other medical emergency or a person experiencing a drug or alcohol overdose or other medical emergency who seeks medical assistance for himself or herself or is the subject of a good faith request shall not be arrested charged, prosecuted, convicted, or have his or her property subject to civil forfeiture or otherwise be penalized for the following if the evidence for the arrest, charge prosecution, conviction, seizure, or penalty was gained as a result of seeking or obtaining medical assistance
(1) Committing a prohibited act under section 579.015, 579.074, 579.078, or 579.105; ….

§ 195.205.2 (footnote omitted). It was passed earlier in 2017 as part of S.B. 501, an act "[t]o repeal sections 191.227, 195.206, 197.040, 197.050, 197.070, 197.071, 197.080, 197.100, 334.010, 334.036, 334.735, 337.010, 337.025, 338.010, and 345.051, RSMo, and to enact in lieu thereof twenty-four new sections relating to health care, with an effective date for certain sections."

The State filed a complaint and probable cause statement against Defendant on April 5, 2018. The case was later bound over to the circuit court where the State filed an information on January 6, 2020, charging Defendant with one count of the class D felony of possession of a controlled substance under § 579.015 and one count of the class D misdemeanor of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia under § 579.074.


Defendant filed a motion to dismiss with prejudice, arguing that § 195.205 prohibits the State from charging, prosecuting, or convicting him for violating the possession statutes. The circuit court initially denied Defendant's motion to dismiss, finding that § 195.205 is a substantive statute that could not be applied retroactively. Defendant then sought reconsideration of the decision, to which the circuit court agreed. The circuit court held a hearing on October 29, 2020, and granted Defendant's motion to dismiss. In its order, the circuit court noted that § 195.205 is "highly unusual" and "does not require a retroactivity analysis" because it "concerns actions that have not yet occurred[ ] and would therefore necessarily take place after the effective date of § 195.205." The circuit court concluded that "the particular language of § 195.205 does not fall within the purview of § 1.160."

This appeal follows.[2]

III. Standard of Review

We generally review a circuit court's decision to grant a motion to dismiss criminal charges for an abuse of discretion. State v. Hunter, 626 S.W.3d 867, 879 (Mo. App. E.D. 2021), transfer denied (Aug. 31, 2021). However, when the only issue presented is the legal matter of statutory interpretation, we review the circuit court's decision de novo. State v. R.J.G., 632 S.W.3d 359, 364 (Mo. banc 2021).

IV. Discussion

"The primary rule of statutory interpretation is to give effect to the legislative intent as reflected in the plain language of the statute." State v. Knox, 604 S.W.3d 316, 320 (Mo. banc 2020) (quoting State v. Salazar, 236 S.W.3d 644, 646 (Mo. banc 2007)). We must also consider


the context of a statute and not read any portion of it in isolation. Hunter, 626 S.W.3d at 874. In addition, the rule of lenity requires us to construe ambiguous criminal statutes strictly against the State. Knox, 604 S.W.3d at 320. "This rule, however, does not require a reviewing court to dispense with common sense or to ignore an evident statutory purpose." Philyow v. State, 554 S.W.3d 567, 570 (Mo. App. E.D. 2018) (quoting State v. Stewart, 113 S.W.3d 245, 249 (Mo. App. E.D. 2003)).

The State argues that the circuit court erred in granting Defendant's motion to dismiss because § 195.205 "effectively amended" the possession statutes, therefore bringing it within the scope of § 1.160 and barring retroactive application. Defendant responds that § 195.205 is simply a new statute, thus § 1.160 does not apply.

Section 1.160, Missouri's savings statute, "continues in force repealed laws until proceedings commenced thereunder, regardless of their nature, might be completed." Mitchell v. Phillips, 596 S.W.3d 120, 125 (Mo. banc 2020), reh'g denied (Mar. 31, 2020) (internal quotation marks omitted) (quoting City of Kirkwood v. Allen, 399...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT