PEOPLE OF MI V JOHN THOMAS WILLIAMS JRAnnotate this Case
STATE OF MICHIGAN
COURT OF APPEALS
PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN,
October 13, 2005
Otsego Circuit Court
LC No. 03-002920-FH
JOHN THOMAS WILLIAMS, JR.,
Official Reported Version
Before: O'Connell, P.J., and Sawyer and Murphy, JJ.
Defendant was convicted, following a jury trial, of possession with intent to deliver less
than five kilograms of marijuana, MCL 333.7401(2)(d)(iii). He was prosecuted as a repeat drug
offender under MCL 333.7413(2), which provides for sentence enhancement when a defendant
has been convicted of a second or subsequent drug offense under the controlled substances act,
MCL 333.7101 et seq. The judgment of sentence reflects that defendant was sentenced to a term
of 38 to 96 months' imprisonment. Defendant appeals as of right, arguing that there was
insufficient evidence to support the conviction and that the trial court erred at sentencing by
doubling the minimum sentence authorized by law pursuant to MCL 333.7413(2). We affirm,
holding that there was sufficient evidence to support defendant's conviction when reviewing the
evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution and that there was no sentencing error
because MCL 333.7413(2) authorized the court's action in doubling the minimum sentence.
Defendant first asserts that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction,
thereby violating his due process rights. Defendant contends that the prosecution failed to
establish beyond a reasonable doubt that he had possession of the marijuana and that he had an
intent to deliver the marijuana, assuming possession. Defendant points to the fact that he was not
the sole lessee or resident of the house where the marijuana was found, but was merely one of
three lessees and one of possibly five individuals residing at the house. Moreover, more than 15
people were present when the police arrived with a warrant. Therefore, according to defendant,
he did not have exclusive control over the marijuana. Furthermore, the prosecution failed to
produce any evidence specifically linking him to the marijuana found in the home other than the
very small amount of marijuana found in his bedroom, which could not support an inference of
an intent to deliver. Thus, defendant contends that any intent to deliver had to be predicated on
the larger quantity of marijuana found in the attic rafters, and defendant testified that the
marijuana found in the attic was hidden there by someone else after the police arrived at the
home. Consequently, the facts establish that someone other than defendant possessed the
marijuana found in the attic. Finally, defendant argues that the prosecution's suggestion that
drug paraphernalia found in the house created an inference of intent to deliver was incorrect
because just the opposite would be true.
We review claims of insufficient evidence de novo. People v Lueth, 253 Mich App 670,
680; 660 NW2d 322 (2002). When ascertaining whether sufficient evidence was presented at
trial to support a conviction, this Court must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the
prosecution and determine whether a rational trier of fact could find that the essential elements of
the crime were proven beyond a reasonable doubt. People v Wolfe, 440 Mich 508, 515-516; 489
NW2d 748 (1992), amended 441 Mich 1201 (1992). This Court will not interfere with the trier
of fact's role of determining the weight of the evidence or the credibility of witnesses. Id. at 514515. Circumstantial evidence and reasonable inferences that arise from such evidence can
constitute satisfactory proof of the elements of the crime. People v Carines, 460 Mich 750, 757;
597 NW2d 130 (1999). All conflicts in the evidence must be resolved in favor of the
prosecution. People v Terry, 224 Mich App 447, 452; 569 NW2d 641 (1997).
Defendant was not denied due process because there was sufficient evidence to support
the conviction. To establish that defendant committed the charged offense, the prosecution had
to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that (1) defendant knowingly possessed a controlled
substance, (2) defendant intended to deliver the controlled substance to someone else, (3) the
substance possessed was marijuana and defendant was aware that it was, and (4) the marijuana
was in a mixture that weighed less than five kilograms. MCL 333.7401(2)(d)(iii); People v
Crawford, 458 Mich 376, 389; 582 NW2d 785 (1998); see also CJI2d 12.3.
Defendant argues that he was situated similarly to the defendant in People v Peterson, 63
Mich App 538; 234 NW2d 692 (1975). In Peterson, the defendant was convicted of possession
of marijuana with intent to deliver. The defendant was the lessee of a residence where 7 1/2
ounces of marijuana were found, but a number of other rent-paying residents and guests had also
stayed at the house. Most of the marijuana was located in the room of another resident and none
was found in the areas over which the defendant had exclusive control. No evidence was
introduced showing that the defendant knew of the marijuana's presence in the home. The
Peterson panel further noted that there was "nothing at all to connect defendant to this
marijuana." Id. at 546. This Court concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the
defendant's conviction of possession with intent to deliver when "the only marijuana that the jury
could properly find defendant possessed" consisted of marijuana seeds that were located in a
manila envelope stored in a box in which the title to the defendant's motorcycle was also located,
and that were too slight in quantity to suggest an intent to deliver. Id. at 546-548.
The evidence presented here is clearly distinguishable from the set of circumstances
confronting the Peterson panel. First, defendant admitted that he knew of the marijuana found in
the attic, and he admitted that he had pooled his own money together with that of his roommates
in order to purchase the "attic" marijuana. According to the investigating officer, defendant
acknowledged that the marijuana found in the attic might be his and that his fingerprints might
be found on it. Moreover, defendant's written statement to the police indicates that all the
marijuana was for him and his roommates, and the statement does not distinguish between the
marijuana found in his bedroom and that found in the attic, but refers to marijuana in the
Defendant contends that all of this can be explained away by the fact that his portion of
the marijuana had been removed from the bag found in the attic, so that he did not possess what
remained in it. The prosecution, however, need not rebut any and all theories that could prove a
defendant innocent, but need only submit evidence sufficient to convince a reasonable jury of the
existence of the elements of the crime in the face of whatever contradictory evidence the
defendant provides. People v Hardiman, 466 Mich 417, 423-424; 646 NW2d 158 (2002).
Moreover, defendant's contention goes to credibility, which was an issue to be resolved by the
jury. We reiterate that circumstantial evidence and the reasonable inferences that arise from it
can constitute sufficient proof of the elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Carines,
supra at 757.
With respect to possession, it may be actual or constructive. Wolfe, supra at 520.
Constructive possession exists if the defendant knew that the substance was present and had the
right to exercise control over it. Id. Put differently, constructive possession exists if "the totality
of the circumstances indicates a sufficient nexus between the defendant and the contraband." Id.
at 521. Possession may be joint, with more than one individual constructively possessing the
contraband, and constructive possession may be found even if the defendant is not the owner of
the controlled substance. Id. at 520. In this case, even if defendant did not consider himself to
be the owner of the marijuana found in the attic because his portion had been removed from it, a
rational jury could still find that there was a sufficient nexus between it and defendant to
conclude that defendant had constructive possession of it when he admitted that he knew of its
presence and that his money had gone toward its purchase. The officer's testimony relative to
defendant's admission that his fingerprints might be discovered on the bags of marijuana found
in the attic further supports a conclusion that defendant had control over it. Accordingly, a
rational trier of fact could have reasonably concluded that defendant had constructive possession
of the marijuana found in the attic.
The jury could also have rationally concluded that defendant possessed the requisite
intent to deliver. An intent to deliver "may be proven by circumstantial evidence and also may
be inferred from the amount of controlled substance possessed." People v Ray, 191 Mich App
706, 708; 479 NW2d 1 (1991). "'Deliver' or 'delivery' means the actual, constructive, or
attempted transfer from 1 person to another of a controlled substance, whether or not there is an
agency relationship." MCL 333.7105(1); see also People v Schultz, 246 Mich App 695, 703704; 635 NW2d 491 (2001).
Here, the marijuana found in the attic was divided in six small plastic bags. This
packaging could suggest that the marijuana was intended to be transferred to others. See Wolfe,
supra at 524-525. Moreover, the number of plastic bags into which the marijuana was separated
indicates that the marijuana was intended to be transferred to more than just defendant's
roommates, with whom he claimed to have purchased the marijuana. The investigating officer
testified that a box of additional bags was found nearby, suggesting that someone may have
intended to break the marijuana into even smaller quantities for sale or distribution. The officer
also testified that it appeared that many of those present in the home had been smoking
marijuana, and defendant's statement to the police implicitly indicated that multiple persons had
smoked marijuana on the night in question, further suggesting that defendant transferred
marijuana to others. Thus, even assuming that the amount of marijuana found in the attic was
not so great as to compel an inference of an intent to deliver, such an inference was permissible
given the other circumstantial evidence presented. See Peterson, supra at 547-548.
Defendant maintains that much of the marijuana paraphernalia found in the house
belonged to him and that this fact supports an inference that he intended only to personally use
the marijuana. Again, the prosecution did not have to rebut all theories that could have proven
defendant innocent. Hardiman, supra at 423-424. Accordingly, we conclude that, when taken
together and viewed in a light most favorable to the prosecution, the evidence supported the
jury's findings that defendant possessed the marijuana in the attic and intended to deliver it.
Next, defendant argues that the trial court erred in imposing sentence. He first notes that
a court that departs from the statutory minimum recommended by the sentencing guidelines must
articulate substantial and compelling reasons for doing so on the record. Defendant contends
that the sentencing guidelines range was 5 to 23 months' imprisonment, but the court imposed a
minimum sentence of 38 months' imprisonment because it was under the erroneous impression
that when a defendant is sentenced as a subsequent drug offender, MCL 333.7413(2), the court
has the authority to double both the minimum and maximum sentences and ignore the
This issue poses a question of statutory construction that we review de novo on appeal.
People v Davis, 468 Mich 77, 79; 658 NW2d 800 (2003).
At sentencing, defendant's trial counsel argued that under the statutory sentencing
guidelines, defendant's minimum sentence range would be 5 to 23 months' imprisonment, but the
presentence investigation report (PSIR) had mistakenly doubled the guidelines range to 10 to 46
Defendant also argues that remand is necessary because the judgment of sentence indicates that
he is to serve a minimum sentence of 38 months' imprisonment, yet the sentencing transcript
reflects that defendant's minimum sentence was set by the trial court at 30 months' imprisonment.
We find it unnecessary to remand for clarification because it is evident that the court imposed
and intended to impose a minimum sentence of 38 months. In all likelihood, the sentencing
transcript contains a transcription error, but even if the court stated, or misspoke, at one point
during sentencing that the minimum sentence would be 30 months, the transcript also contains
numerous references by the court that it was sentencing defendant consistently with the
recommendation in the presentence investigation report, which recommendation was for a
minimum sentence of 38 months' imprisonment.
months' imprisonment under the incorrect assumption that because of defendant's prior drug
convictions, both his maximum sentence and the guidelines range with respect to the minimum
sentence would be doubled. The prosecution disagreed, arguing that if defendant's interpretation
were correct, the enhancement would not effectively constitute an additional punishment. The
court indicated its agreement with the prosecution that the subsequent drug offense enhancement
would be meaningless if it did not also increase the minimum. The trial court then ruled as
I think, under the circumstances, that the Probation and Parole Department
is correct. I—I do believe that the maximum is doubled, and I believe that, as a
result of that, the . . . minimum can be up to doubled . . . . As I've indicated, I'm
inclined to follow the recommendation, which I will do.
Before turning to the applicable statutory provisions, we first take heed of the governing
principles of statutory construction. Our primary task in construing a statute is to discern and
give effect to the intent of the Legislature. Shinholster v Annapolis Hosp, 471 Mich 540, 548549; 685 NW2d 275 (2004). The words contained in a statute provide us with the most reliable
evidence of the Legislature's intent. Id. at 549. In discerning legislative intent, this Court gives
effect to every word, phrase, and clause in the statute. We must consider both the plain meaning
of the critical words or phrases as well as their placement and purpose in the statutory scheme.
Id. This Court must avoid a construction that would render any part of a statute surplusage or
nugatory. Bageris v Brandon Twp, 264 Mich App 156, 162; 691 NW2d 459 (2004). "'The
statutory language must be read and understood in its grammatical context, unless it is clear that
something different was intended.'" Shinholster, supra at 549 (citation omitted). If the wording
or language of a statute is unambiguous, the Legislature is deemed to have intended the meaning
clearly expressed, and we must enforce the statute as written. Id. "A necessary corollary of
these principles is that a court may read nothing into an unambiguous statute that is not within
the manifest intent of the Legislature as derived from the words of the statute itself." Roberts v
Mecosta Co Gen Hosp, 466 Mich 57, 63; 642 NW2d 663 (2002). Statutory language,
unambiguous on its face, may be rendered ambiguous through its interaction with and
relationship to other statutes. People v Valentin, 457 Mich 1, 6; 577 NW2d 73 (1998). If
statutes can be construed in a manner that avoids conflict, then that construction should control
the analysis. People v Webb, 458 Mich 265, 274; 580 NW2d 884 (1998). "We construe an act
as a whole to harmonize its provisions and carry out the purpose of the Legislature." Macomb
Co Prosecutor v Murphy, 464 Mich 149, 159-160; 627 NW2d 247 (2001).
The PSIR indicates that the sentencing guidelines range is 5 to 23 months' imprisonment
after initial computation of the prior record variables and offense variables and before any
enhancement under MCL 333.7413(2). The initial guidelines range of 5 to 23 months was
accepted by the trial court, and the parties do not dispute the scores attributed to the various prior
record variables and offense variables, the application of these scores to the pertinent grid, and
the calculation of the initial minimum sentence range. Therefore, we shall accept that the
minimum guidelines range before doubling was accurately calculated and proceed accordingly.
The dispute arises out of whether it was appropriate to double the guidelines range and choose
the minimum sentence from within that range under MCL 333.7413(2) when defendant had two
prior marijuana-related convictions. We note that sentence enhancement was not sought under
the general habitual-offender statutes applicable to repeat felony offenders, MCL 769.10, 769.11,
769.12, and 769.13. Rather, the prosecution specifically proceeded with the express intent to
seek sentence enhancement pursuant to MCL 333.7413(2), as reflected in the warrant, complaint,
and felony information.
MCL 333.7413(2) provides, in relevant part, that "an individual convicted of a second or
subsequent offense under this article may be imprisoned for a term not more than twice the term
otherwise authorized or fined an amount not more than twice that otherwise authorized, or both."
The statute in its current form has been in place since 1988. The word "term" is defined, in part,
as "the time or period through which something lasts" or "a period of time to which limits have
been set[.]" Random House Webster's College Dictionary (2001).2 Clearly then, imprisonment
for a "term" can encompass both the minimum and maximum sentences authorized by law
because a period is created by reference to both. This Court, quite often, refers to a defendant's
term of imprisonment by recitation of both the minimum and maximum sentences. Additionally,
the clear and unambiguous language of MCL 333.7413(2) does not differentiate or suggest a
distinction, either explicitly or implicitly, between maximum and minimum sentences; therefore,
the word "term" can entail and contemplate both maximum and minimum sentences. MCL
333.7413(2) also speaks of doubling a term of imprisonment "otherwise authorized . . . ." There
is no dispute between the parties that the maximum prescribed sentence for any given offense is
considered authorized punishment for purposes of MCL 333.7413(2) and that MCL 333.7413(2)
permits a court to double the statutory maximum sentence.
With respect to minimum sentences and repeat drug offenders, we note this Court's ruling
in People v Williams, 205 Mich App 229, 230; 517 NW2d 315 (1994), which addressed a
situation where the defendant was convicted of a drug crime carrying a mandatory 1- to 20-year
prison term, and in which the panel stated:
Because defendant is a repeat offender, he is subject to the sentence
augmentation provision of the controlled substances act, MCL 333.7413(2); MSA
14.15(7413)(2), under which he "may be imprisoned for a term no more than
twice the term otherwise authorized. . . ." Thus, the sentence enhancement
provision allows defendant's statutory mandatory prison term to be raised from
one to twenty years to a possible two to forty years. [Emphasis added.]
This language clearly indicates that a sentencing court can double both the statutorily
allowed maximum sentence and any statutory minimum sentence. In support, the Williams panel
cited People v Scott, 197 Mich App 28, 30; 494 NW2d 765 (1992), in which this Court stated,
citing MCL 333.7413(2), that "[t]he Legislature has decided to punish repeat drug offenders by
"[W]e accord undefined statutory terms their plain and ordinary meanings and may consult
dictionary definitions in such situations." Griffith v State Farm Mut Automobile Ins Co, 472
Mich 521, 526; 697 NW2d 895 (2005).
doubling the minimum sentence otherwise authorized." (Emphasis added.) In People v
Davenport, 205 Mich App 399, 401; 522 NW2d 339 (1994), this Court held that MCL
333.7413(2) authorized the trial court to double the defendant's minimum sentence when she was
convicted of a controlled substance offense that provided for a sentence of 1 to 20 years'
imprisonment. The Court concluded that "[t]he sentencing court properly sentenced defendant to
two to forty years . . . ." Id.
At the time Williams was decided in 1994, the judicial sentencing guidelines were in
place rather than the legislative sentencing guidelines. MCL 769.34(1) and (2); Williams, supra
at 231. The Williams panel found that the sentence enhancement or augmentation provision of
MCL 333.7413(2) is in the nature of and comparable to an "habitual offender" provision for
purposes of the judicial sentencing guidelines, and thus the guidelines did not apply when there
was sentence enhancement pursuant to MCL 333.7413(2). Williams, supra at 231. Indeed, the
judicial sentencing guidelines did not apply to the sentencing of habitual offenders. People v
Hansford (After Remand), 454 Mich 320, 323; 562 NW2d 460 (1997). However, under the
statutory sentencing guidelines, habitual-offender status became relevant in setting the guidelines
range. MCL 777.21(3) provides:
If the offender is being sentenced under section 10, 11, or 12 of chapter IX
[the habitual-offender statutes], determine the offense category, offense class,
offense variable level, and prior record variable level based on the underlying
offense. To determine the recommended minimum sentence range, increase the
upper limit of the recommended minimum sentence range determined under part
6 for the underlying offense as follows:
(a) If the offender is being sentenced for a second felony, 25%.
(b) If the offender is being sentenced for a third felony, 50%.
(c) If the offender is being sentenced for a fourth or subsequent felony,
Therefore, if a defendant is being sentenced as an habitual offender, MCL 777.21
requires an increase in the upper limit of the recommended minimum sentence range. This
statutory language showed our Legislature's intent that repeat felony offenders should not only
be subject to an increase in the statutory maximum sentence because of their recidivism as
provided by MCL 769.10, MCL 769.11, and MCL 769.12, but their minimum sentences should
likewise be increased.
With regard to drug offenses and the sentence enhancement provision of MCL
333.7413(2), MCL 777.18, which is part of chapter XVII of the Code of Criminal Procedure
concerning the sentencing guidelines, expressly specifies that the statutory sentencing guidelines
apply to MCL 333.7413(2) ("described as [s]ubsequent controlled substance violations"). This
statutory provision, MCL 777.18, which was enacted along with the sweeping changes made by
our Legislature when it codified the sentencing guidelines in 1998 PA 317, reflects a legislative
intent to implicate the sentencing guidelines when a sentence is being considered and imposed
under MCL 333.7413(2). Thus, a minimum sentence for a drug offense calculated under the
statutory guidelines as required by MCL 777.18 is "authorized" for purposes of enhancement
under MCL 333.7413(2). There was no need to amend MCL 333.7413(2) to further this
legislative intent because it had already been read by the courts as encompassing any minimum
sentences authorized by law, see Williams, supra, and because the inclusion of authorized
minimum sentences for doubling purposes, which necessarily includes a sentence imposed under
the mandatory guidelines, falls within the clear language of the statute.
Furthermore, to read the doubling provision of MCL 333.7413(2) as not being applicable
to a minimum sentence calculated under the guidelines would, aside from being contrary to the
express language of MCL 777.18, appear to also be contrary to an overall legislative intent to
increase minimum sentences for repeat offenders as demonstrated by MCL 777.21.
Additionally, just as a sentence imposed for an habitual offender under the habitual-offender
statutes would not be outside the sentencing guidelines range if a court sentences a defendant
within a range as increased by MCL 777.21, so too would a court not be sentencing a defendant
outside the range if the sentence is within the range as increased by MCL 333.7413(2).
Accordingly, there would be no need for a sentencing court to articulate a substantial and
compelling reason for imposing a sentence on the basis that there is a departure from the
guidelines range; there is no departure. See MCL 769.34(3). Here, the minimum sentence of 38
months fell within the range as permissibly increased by MCL 333.7413(2), i.e., 10 to 46 months
from the original range of 5 to 23 months.3 Considering that the minimum sentence did not
reflect a departure from the guidelines, and given that there is no claim of a scoring error or of
inaccurate sentencing information being utilized by the trial court, we are mandated to affirm the
sentence. MCL 769.34(10).
/s/ William B. Murphy
/s/ Peter D. O'Connell
/s/ David H. Sawyer
We emphasize that MCL 333.7413(2) does not require the sentencing court to double the range
or minimum sentence, but only that a court may enhance the sentence by up to twice the term
authorized by law.