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United States v. John Jouett Waddell, Defendant

United States District Court, W.D. Missouri, Southern Division

January 30, 2015

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN JOUETT WADDELL, Defendant

REPORT AND RECOMMENDATION OF UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

DAVID P. RUSH, United States Magistrate Judge.

Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b), the above-styled criminal action was referred to the undersigned for preliminary review. Defendant John Jouett Waddell, with assistance of counsel, filed a Motion to Dismiss the Indictment (Doc. 24), arguing that the analogue drug statute, under which he is charged, is unconstitutional because (1) it is void for vagueness, and (2) it impermissibly delegates authority to enact penal statutes to the Executive Branch in violation of separation-of-powers principles. For the reasons set forth below, IT IS HEREBY RECOMMENDED that the motion to dismiss the indictment be DENIED.

LEGAL STANDARDS

Waddell is charged with conspiracy to distribute XLR-11, a controlled substance analogue. Under the Analogue Act, a " controlled substance analogue" is a substance

(i) the chemical structure of which is substantially similar to the chemical structure of a controlled substance in schedule I or II;

(ii) which has a stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system that is substantially similar to or greater than the stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system of a controlled substance in schedule I or II; or

(iii) with respect to a particular person, which such person represents or intends to have a stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system that is substantially similar to or greater than the stimulant, depressant, or hallucinogenic effect on the central nervous system of a controlled substance in schedule I or II.

21 U.S.C. § 802(32)(A).

DISCUSSION

Vagueness

Waddell argues that the term " substantially similar" as used in the statute is unconstitutionally vague. A vague statute can be found to violate due process, and therefore " void, " if it does not sufficiently describe or define the prohibited act or acts. The statute must provide " a person of ordinary intelligence a reasonable opportunity to know what is prohibited."

Grayned v. City of Rockford, 408 U.S. 104, 108 (1972). It is well-settled in the Eighth Circuit that the Analogue Act is not unconstitutionally vague. See United States v. McKinney, 79 F.3d 105, 108 (8th Cir. 1996). In United States v. Washam, 312 F.3d 926, 929 (8th Cir. 2002), the Eighth Circuit addressed a vagueness challenge to the " substantially similar" portion of the statute. The Court employed a two-part test in determining that the statute was not unconstitutionally vague. The Court first asked whether the statute provided " adequate notice of the proscribed conduct, " and second, whether the statute lent itself to " arbitrary enforcement."

The defendant argues that " adequate notice" requires a finding of a willful mindset, and a requirement that a defendant acted with only knowledge that a substance was substantially similar to a prohibited substance renders the statute unconstitutionally vague. The Eighth Circuit, adopting the Seventh Circuit's reasoning in United States v. Turcotte, 405 F.3d 515 (7th Cir. 2005), specifically rejected this argument and found that a defendant's knowledge that a substance was an analogue for a prohibited controlled substance was not unconstitutionally vague. See United States v. Bamberg, 478 F.3d 934, 939-40 (8th Cir. 2007). From a purely legal standpoint, these precedents establish that the Analogue Act is not void for vagueness. The undersigned acknowledges, however, that the " substantially similar" analysis in a given case necessarily contains a fact-specific component. In other words, whether an alleged controlled substance analogue is " substantially similar" to a prohibited controlled substance requires evidence of the chemical makeup of the alleged analogue, which will generally be produced in the form of expert testimony at trial.

To meet their evidentiary burden at trial, the government is required to demonstrate that 1) the defendant possessed a controlled substance analogue; 2) the defendant knew he was in possession of a controlled substance analogue; and 3) the defendant intended to distribute the controlled substance analogue for human consumption. See United States v. Sullivan, 714 F.3d 1104, 1107 (8th Cir. 2013).

To the extent that the challenge raised by the defendant is a legal question for the Court, the undersigned recommends that, according to relevant precedent, the statute is not unconstitutionally vague. It cannot be ignored, however, that no evidence has been presented in the case, and no determinations of fact have yet been made. On this basis, the undersigned further recommends that the defendant's challenge is premature. The final determination whether the substance charged in the indictment is a controlled substance analogue will be an issue of fact for resolution by the jury after the presentation of evidence at trial, not an issue of law to be resolved by the Court at this stage of the litigation.

Impermissible Delegation

The defendant also argues that Analogue Act, specifically, 21 U.S.C. § 811(h), violates the non-delegation doctrine because it improperly delegates legislative power to the Executive Branch to enact criminal statutes and improperly subdelegates authority to the Drug Enforcement Agency to temporarily schedule controlled substances on the Attorney General's controlled substance schedule. The Supreme Court has completely foreclosed this argument. " [T]he non-delegation doctrine does not prevent Congress from seeking assistance, within proper limits, from its coordinate Branches." Touby v. United States, 500 U.S. 160, 165 (1991). Regarding the subdelegation to the DEA, the statue authorizes the Attorney General to delegate any of his or her functions to " any officer or employee of the Department of Justice." Id. at 169 (citing 21 U.S.C. § 871(a)).

CONCLUSION

Therefore, based on all the foregoing, and pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b) and Local Rule 72.1 of the United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri, the undersigned hereby RECOMMENDS that the Motion to Dismiss the Indictment (Doc. 24) be DENIED.


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