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People v. Schmalz

November 22, 2000


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Chief Justice Harrison

Docket No. 88471-Agenda 9-September 2000.

As petitioner, the State presents a single issue: whether the State's evidence was sufficient to prove the defendant, Jennifer R. Schmalz, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of unlawful possession of cannabis (720 ILCS 550/4(a) (West 1996)) and drug paraphernalia (720 ILCS 600/3.5(a) (West 1996)). In the circuit court of Peoria County, following a bench trial the defendant was found guilty of both offenses and sentenced to six months of non-reporting supervision. Defendant appealed, raising the sole issue of whether the State's evidence was insufficient to prove her guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

On review the parties presented a brief agreed statement of facts, which we set forth in its entirety:

"A bench trial was held on December 18, 1997. The defendant-appellant Jennifer Schmalz was the only defendant in the trial. At that bench trail [sic], the court found the following facts:

Peoria Police Officer Baize, Star 794, testified that on August 28, 1997, he went to the address of 1209 North Underhill, Peoria, Illinois, in response to a call concerning a problem regarding a parked vehicle. While assisting other officers regarding that vehicle, he knocked on the door at that address. The building was a residential, single-family style house. After speaking with the young man who answered the door, Officer Baize asked for and received permission to enter that building and search for the driver of the vehicle.

Officer Baize entered the house and eventually started up an interior stairway leading to the upstairs portion of the house. While going up the stairs, he noticed smoke and smelled what he believed was burning marijuana.

Upon reaching the top of the stairs, Officer Baize noticed the smell was stronger. He turned into a bedroom to which the door was partially open, knocked and received a response of `come in.' The bedroom was a very small room. In that bedroom were four persons (one male and three females), one of whom was the defendant. There was considerable smoke and haze, and the smell of burning marijuana, in that bedroom. The defendant was sitting on the floor. Two persons were sitting on a couch. The fourth person was sitting on a bed.

On the floor of that bedroom were items of drug paraphernalia (3 bongs), as well as three clear plastic bags containing crushed green plant. The defendant was sitting less than 12 inches from one of the bags; that bag and a bong were within the defendant's reach from where she was sitting. There were also other drug paraphernalia items elsewhere in the bedroom. A fourth clear plastic bag was recovered from the couch in the bedroom after one of two persons sitting on the couch attempted to conceal something from the police. That person was not the defendant, and the police never saw defendant on that couch. The police officer asked `what are you doing?' and the defendant stated `we're having a party'. Officer Baize did not see any drinks, snacks or food in that bedroom. The officer then placed under arrest all four individuals in the bedroom, as well as the young man who had answered the door. Upon searching the remainder of the residence, the police found additional paraphernalia in other rooms of the residence. All five persons were charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and with misdemeanor possession of cannabis. The defendant was charged with possession of not more than 2.5 grams of marijuana under 720 ILCS 550/4(a).

Officer testified that his investigation revealed that the two males were the sole residents at that building. The three females, one of whom was the defendant, did not reside or stay at that location. The officer did not see any women's clothing in the closets of the residence.

Officer Baize testified that no marijuana or paraphernalia was recovered from the person of the defendant, or from any property, such as a purse or jacket, of the defendant. He did not see the defendant touch any marijuana or paraphernalia. The only room of the residence in which he saw the defendant (other than the rooms through which he escorted her after her arrest) was the bedroom in which he first saw her. He never saw her in, or exiting from, any of the other rooms from which drug paraphernalia items were recovered.

Officer Baize did not see who placed any of the paraphernalia or marijuana at the any [sic] of the places from which it was recovered, including the bedroom in which he saw the defendant sitting on the floor.

The parties stipulated that if called to testify, Jennie R. Hahn would testify as follows: as to her education, training, experience, credentials and qualifications in the field of forensic chemistry; that she is employed as a forensic scientist with the Illinois State Police; that on September 11, 1997, she received from the Peoria Police Department four plastic bags containing crushed green plant; she weighed the contents of all four bags, and all of those contents weighed 6.8 grams; she tested those contents, and the contents tested positive for the presence of cannabis. The parties also stipulated to the chain of custody of the paraphernalia and marijuana.

The prosecution then rested. No exhibits were offered or admitted into evidence. A defense motion for acquittal was denied. The defense then rested without presenting any evidence. After argument, Judge Stuart P. Borden found the defendant guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of cannabis (not more than 2.5 grams) and sentenced her to six (6) months non- reporting supervision, with the only conditions being payment of a $750.00 fine and $206 in costs (C. 19, 21).

On January 12, 1998, the defendant filed a Post-Trial Motion for Judgment of Acquittal, or, alternatively, Motion for a New Trial (C. 22, 23, 25). This motion was heard and denied on January 30, 1998 (C. ...

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