Whitaker v. People, No. 00SC866.

Docket NºNo. 00SC866.
Citation48 P.3d 555
Case DateJune 03, 2002
CourtSupreme Court of Colorado

48 P.3d 555

David WHITAKER, Petitioner,
v.
The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Respondent

No. 00SC866.

Supreme Court of Colorado, En Banc.

June 3, 2002.

As Modified on Denial of Rehearing June , 2002.


48 P.3d 556
David S. Kaplan, Colorado State Public Defender, Shann Jeffery, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Petitioner

Ken Salazar, Attorney General, Robert Mark Russel, Assistant Solicitor General, Denver, Colorado, Attorneys for Respondent.

Justice HOBBS delivered the Opinion of the Court.

A jury convicted the defendant, David Whitaker, of possessing with intent to distribute over 1,000 grams of methamphetamine, a schedule II controlled substance, and importing methamphetamine into Colorado. Whitaker claimed that his conviction should be reversed because the trial judge did not instruct the jury to apply the mens rea of "knowingly" to both the quantity and the importation of the drug. The court of appeals upheld Whitaker's conviction. We agree.

We hold that the General Assembly, in section 18-18-405, did not intend to apply a culpable mental state to the quantity of drugs the defendant distributed, manufactured, dispensed, sold, or possessed. We also hold that importation under Colorado's

48 P.3d 557
special offender statute, section 18-18-407, does not include a mens rea requirement. The jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant possessed the drug quantity specified by section 18-18-405(3)(a)(III), and imported the drugs across state lines as specified by section 18-18-407(1)(d). Accordingly, we uphold Whitaker's conviction and sentence

I.

On January 14, 1998, David Whitaker was a passenger on a Greyhound bus en route from Los Angeles, California to Denver, Colorado. The bus stopped in Grand Junction, Colorado for routine service and to change drivers. Passengers were required to leave the bus during this stop. After the passengers had reboarded, three Grand Junction Police Department officers entered the bus, identifying themselves as police officers. Two of the officers began talking to each of the bus passengers, including Whitaker.

The officers testified that Whitaker appeared nervous while talking to them. When asked about his luggage, Whitaker told the police that he had none. The officers pointed to a black bag near Whitaker and asked if it was his. Whitaker responded that it was not his bag, but said he had placed his jacket and a few other items inside it because no one else appeared to be using it. Whitaker then consented to a search of the bag. The officers discovered 8.8 pounds of uncut methamphetamine contained in several duct tape covered packages inside the bag.

The prosecution charged Whitaker with several drug offenses.1 At trial, Whitaker argued that he did not possess the drugs and did not know that the packages of drugs were in the bag. The defense did not dispute the facts that the bag contained 8.8 pounds of methamphetamine and that the drugs came across Colorado's state lines via the Greyhound bus. The jury convicted Whitaker of possessing 1,000 grams or more of a schedule II controlled substance with intent to distribute and importation of a schedule II controlled substance. The trial court sentenced him to twenty years in state prison.

The court of appeals affirmed Whitaker's conviction and sentence. People v. Whitaker, 32 P.3d 511 (Colo.App.2000). The court of appeals found that the trial court had correctly instructed the jury on the elements of possession of 1,000 grams or more of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and on the charge of importation of a controlled substance. It held that the prosecution need not prove that Whitaker "knowingly" imported the controlled substance, nor that the defendant "knew" the drugs weighed more than 1,000 grams. Id. at 517-19. The court concluded that special offender drug importation under section 18-18-407(1)(d), 6 C.R.S. (2001), and the quantity of a controlled substance possessed under section 18-18-405, 6 C.R.S. (2001), have no mens rea requirement. Id. at 517-18.

We granted certiorari in People v. Whitaker, 32 P.3d 511 (Colo.App.2000), to review the court of appeals' judgment.2 We uphold the judgment.

48 P.3d 558
II.

We hold that the General Assembly, in section 18-18-405, did not intend to apply a culpable mental state to the quantity of drugs the defendant distributed, manufactured, dispensed, sold, or possessed. We also hold that importation under Colorado's special offender statute, section 18-18-407, does not include a mens rea requirement. The jury found beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant possessed the drug quantity specified by section 18-18-405(3)(a)(III), and imported the drugs across state lines as specified by section 18-18-407(1)(d). Accordingly, we uphold Whitaker's conviction and sentence.

A.

Section 18-18-405 and Quantity of Drug

Whitaker argues that the trial court erroneously instructed the jury on the charge of possession with intent to distribute over 1,000 grams of a controlled substance, because it did not clearly instruct that the mens rea "knowingly" applied to the drug quantity. We disagree.

Section 18-18-405(3)(a)(III) applies to Whitaker because the jury convicted him of possessing more than 1,000 grams of methamphetamine, a schedule II controlled substance, with the intent to distribute. Section 18-18-405(3)(a)(III) defines the required sentence for a defendant convicted of unlawful distribution, manufacturing, dispensing, sale or possession of 1,000 grams or more of a schedule I or II controlled substance.3

Whitaker argues that the quantity of drugs contained in section 18-18-405(3)(a)(III) is an essential element of the crime of possession with intent to distribute, and the mens rea contained in section 18-18-405(1)(a), "knowingly," must apply to it. However, whether the quantity of drugs involved in the offense requires a mens rea is a matter of statutory interpretation. "Our fundamental responsibility in interpreting a statute is to give effect to the General Assembly's purpose and intent in enacting the statute." Empire Lodge Homeowners' Ass'n v. Moyer, 39 P.3d 1139, 1152 (Colo.2001). "If the plain language of the statute clearly expresses the legislative intent, then the court must give effect to the ordinary meaning of the statutory language. Likewise, the court should avoid interpreting a statute in a way that defeats the obvious intent of the legislature." Pediatric Neurosurgery, P.C. v. Russell, 44 P.3d 1063, 1068 (Colo.2002). We must read the statute as a whole, construing each provision consistently and in harmony with the overall statutory design, if possible. Id.; Empire Lodge, 39 P.3d at 1152.

Here, section 18-18-405(1)(a) defines the offense, and the provisions of XX-XX-XXX(2), (3), (5) and (6) set forth the applicable punishment levels.4 This statutory structure demonstrates the General...

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49 practice notes
  • People v. Hinojas-Mendoza, Court of Appeals No. 03CA0645 (CO 7/28/2005), Court of Appeals No. 03CA0645.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • July 28, 2005
    ...may Page 18 require a sentence greater than the presumptive minimum contained in [§ 18-1-1.3-401(1)(a), C.R.S. 2004]." Whitaker v. People, 48 P.3d 555, 559 (Colo. B. Proof of Quantity Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Nevertheless, quantity still must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Whitaker v......
  • People v. Cisneros, Court of Appeals No. 09CA2717
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • April 24, 2014
    ...finding as to the existence of the special offender circumstance, is to increase the required sentencing range. See Whitaker v. People, 48 P.3d 555, 560 (Colo.2002) (interpreting the importation provision of section 18–18–407). ¶ 14 Here, although the trial court denied defendant's request ......
  • People v. Hinojos-Mendoza, No. 03CA0645.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • July 28, 2005
    ...doubt, may require a sentence greater than the presumptive minimum contained in [§ 18-1.3-401(1)(a), C.R.S.2004]." Whitaker v. People, 48 P.3d 555, 559 (Colo. B. Proof of Quantity Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Nevertheless, quantity still must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Whitaker v. Pe......
  • S.W. v. Towers Boat Club, Inc., Supreme Court Case No. 12SC391
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • December 23, 2013
    ...we must read it “as a whole, construing each provision consistently and in harmony with the overall statutory design.” Whitaker v. People, 48 P.3d 555, 558 (Colo.2002). It thus defies comprehension to suggest that, when the General Assembly amended section 13–21–115 in order to mollify our ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
49 cases
  • People v. Hinojas-Mendoza, Court of Appeals No. 03CA0645 (CO 7/28/2005), Court of Appeals No. 03CA0645.
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • July 28, 2005
    ...may Page 18 require a sentence greater than the presumptive minimum contained in [§ 18-1-1.3-401(1)(a), C.R.S. 2004]." Whitaker v. People, 48 P.3d 555, 559 (Colo. B. Proof of Quantity Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Nevertheless, quantity still must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Whitaker v......
  • People v. Cisneros, Court of Appeals No. 09CA2717
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • April 24, 2014
    ...finding as to the existence of the special offender circumstance, is to increase the required sentencing range. See Whitaker v. People, 48 P.3d 555, 560 (Colo.2002) (interpreting the importation provision of section 18–18–407). ¶ 14 Here, although the trial court denied defendant's request ......
  • People v. Hinojos-Mendoza, No. 03CA0645.
    • United States
    • Colorado Court of Appeals of Colorado
    • July 28, 2005
    ...doubt, may require a sentence greater than the presumptive minimum contained in [§ 18-1.3-401(1)(a), C.R.S.2004]." Whitaker v. People, 48 P.3d 555, 559 (Colo. B. Proof of Quantity Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Nevertheless, quantity still must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Whitaker v. Pe......
  • S.W. v. Towers Boat Club, Inc., Supreme Court Case No. 12SC391
    • United States
    • Colorado Supreme Court of Colorado
    • December 23, 2013
    ...we must read it “as a whole, construing each provision consistently and in harmony with the overall statutory design.” Whitaker v. People, 48 P.3d 555, 558 (Colo.2002). It thus defies comprehension to suggest that, when the General Assembly amended section 13–21–115 in order to mollify our ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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