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State v. Sudsbury

Supreme Judicial Court of Maine

February 4, 2016

STATE OF MAINE
v.
CHRISTOPHER SUDSBURY

         Argued October 6, 2015.

          On the briefs: Sean Ociepka, Esq., Belfast, for appellant Christopher Sudsbury.

         Katie R. Hollstrom, Asst. Dist. Atty., District Attorney's Office, Bath, for appellee State of Maine.

         Zachary L. Heiden, Esq., ACLU of Maine Foundation, Portland, and Catherine R. Connors, Esq., and Joshua D. Dunlap, Esq., Pierce Atwood LLP, Portland, for amicus curiae American Civil Liberties Union of Maine Foundation.

         At oral argument: Sean Ociepka, Esq., for appellant Christopher Sudsbury.

         Katie R. Hollstrom, for appellee State of Maine.

         Panel: SAUFLEY, C.J., and MEAD, GORMAN, JABAR, HJELM, and HUMPHREY, JJ.

          OPINION

Page 864

          PER CURIAM

          [¶1] After Christopher Sudsbury sold a single strip of Suboxone to a confidential informant for twenty-five dollars, a jury found him guilty of aggravated trafficking of a schedule W drug (Class A), 17-A M.R.S. § 1105-A(1)(B)(1) (2015), and the court (Waldo County, Alexander, J. ) sentenced him to eight years in prison.[1] The State now concedes that it failed to present evidence--required for purposes of proving the charged Class A crime--that the Suboxone was, in fact, a schedule W drug.[2] See 17-A M.R.S. § § 1102(1),[3] 1105-A(1)(B)(1) (2015). Thus, we have no choice but to vacate the conviction.

          [¶2] To prove the charged crime of aggravated trafficking in a schedule W drug, the State had to prove that (1) Sudsbury intentionally or knowingly trafficked in what he knew or believed to be a scheduled drug; (2) the drug sold was " in fact a scheduled drug" ; (3) Sudsbury had " one or more prior convictions for any Class A, B or C offense under this chapter or for engaging in substantially similar conduct to that of the Class A, B or C offenses under this chapter in another jurisdiction" ; and (4) the trafficked drug was " [a] schedule W drug." 17-A M.R.S. § § 1103(1-A), 1105-A(1)(B)(1) (2015). Neither Suboxone itself nor its active ingredient, buprenorphine, is explicitly named as a prohibited scheduled drug in any of the schedules established by the Legislature. See 17-A M.R.S. § 1102 (2015). Thus, proof that Sudsbury sold a strip of Suboxone was insufficient to satisfy the statutory element requiring that the trafficked substance be " in fact a scheduled drug," see id. § 1103(1-A), or, more particularly, a schedule W drug, see id. § 1105-A(1)(B)(1).

          [¶3] To prove that Sudsbury's conduct fell within the definition of the crime charged, the State was therefore required to present evidence that Suboxone is a drug that falls within one of the listed categories of schedule W drugs, such as " any compound, mixture or preparation containing narcotic drugs" that is not listed or described in another schedule. Id. § 1102(1)(I). At trial, however, no evidence was presented to the jury that Suboxone or

Page 865

buprenorphine constituted a narcotic or fell into any other category established in schedule W. See id. ...


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