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Iowa v. Hendricks

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Waterloo police stopped a silver Kia, in which Heinrich was the passenger. The officer smelled a strong odor of marijuana and found a bag with synthetic marijuana, K-2.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    A statute may be deemed void for vagueness when a reasonable person could not understand the criminal conduct in which the statute prohibited.

    Facts.

    Waterloo police stopped a silver Kia with an expired license plate. As the officer was approaching the vehicle, the officer noticed a strong odor of marijuana coming from the car. The officer asked Heinrichs, the passenger, to step out of the vehicle, and whether he “had anything on him.†Heinrichs responded that he solely had a pipe for smoking “incense.†Subsequently, the officer found a small black foil bag, which was labeled “100% Pure Evil†and “not for human consumption.†Heinrich identified the substance to be K-2 and told the officer he bought it over the counter at a liquor sore.

    Issue.

    (1) Whether the Iowa Code § 124.204(4)(u) violates the Due Process Clause of the federal and state constitutions because it is void for vagueness. (2) Whether the language of the catch-all phrase in Iowa Code § 124.204(4)(u) sufficiently notifies the Defendant that the possession of K-2 is not legal.

    Held.

    (1) No, the Iowa Code § 124.204(4)(u) does not violate the Due Process Clause of the federal or state constitutions because the legislature is not required to use nonscientific terms when describing the drug. (2) Yes, when evaluating the dictionary definitions of the pertinent terms in Iowa Code § 124.204(4)(u), a person of ordinary understanding would be able ascertain that the substance, K-2, was prohibited.

    Discussion.

    1) The court declines Heinrichs argument requiring the state legislature to use specific names, not to the inclusion of the scientific names, to avoid the void for vagueness doctrine. Further, the court found the statute could not simply be invalid because the state legislature did not include all the nicknames of the contraband in the statute. (2) Based on the dictionary definitions of the terms cannabis, synthetic, and equivalent, the court found a person of ordinary understand would be able to ascertain what the prohibited substances in the statute were. First, “cannabis†is defined as “any preparations or chemicals that are derived from hemp are psychoactive.†Second, “synthetic†is defined as “produced artificially.†Third, “equivalent†is defined as “corresponding or virtually identical especially in effect of function.†Therefore, the dictionary definition illustrates that Heinrichs conduct was prohibited by statute, as he was in possession of hallucinogenic substances, and a person of ordinary intelligence would be able to understand it.



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