PETITIONER APPEARING PRO SE: ATTORNEYS FOR RESPONDENT:
MAX D. HORRALL JEFFREY A. MODISETT
Petersburg, Indiana Attorney General of Indiana
DAVID A. ARTHUR
Deputy Attorney General
paid by levy. Horrall makes a variety of challenges to the legality of the Department's
assessment. First, he asserts that he is an ultimate user and therefore not liable for the tax. See
Ind. Code Ann. § 6-7-3-5 (West Supp. 1997). Second, he asserts that others are liable for the
tax, specifically, the judge in his criminal case, members of the jury, the prosecutor, as well as the
police because they handled and/or manufactured the marijuana in the course of Horrall's
prosecution for marijuana cultivation. Third, he asserts the date of the assessment, May 20, 1997,
renders the assessment fatally defective because he was incarcerated on that date and therefore
did not possess the marijuana on that date. Finally, Horrall asserts that the tax statute is void for
Horrall's criminal trial) constituted jeopardy for Fifth Amendment purposes. See Horrall v. State,
673 N.E.2d 526 (Ind. Ct. App. 1996).
On May 20, 1993, an agent of the Department informed Horrall personally of the assessment while Horrall was held in the Knox County Jail. Horrall informed the agent that he did not have the funds to pay the tax. That day, the agent also prepared and served a levy to obtain the $175 that the police had seized from Horrall. On June 1, 1993, Horrall protested the assessment by mailing a letter that simply stated, "I protest!"See footnote 2 (Rept's Ex. G at 2). The Department held a hearing on this matter and denied Horrall's protest in a letter of findings dated March 27, 1997. On June 18, 1997, Horrall initiated this original tax appeal. On September 25, 1997, the parties tried this cause before this Court. Additional facts will be supplied as necessary.
violates Ind. Code Ann. § 35-48-4-11 (West 1986), unless Horrall had a legal justification.
Horrall argues that he was an ultimate user and therefore had a legal justification.
An ultimate user is "a person who lawfully possesses a controlled substance for the person's own use, for the use of a member of the person's household, or for administering to an animal owned by the person or by a member of the person's household." Ind. Code Ann. § 35- 48-1-27 (West Supp. 1997) (emphasis added). Horrall claims status as an ultimate user because he planned to use the marijuana plants to construct what he terms "a hemp hut." (Trial Tr. at 34- 35). Horrall admitted at trial that he did not have any kind of occupational license. (Trial Tr. at 30-31). Horrall also offered no other justification for his marijuana possession.See footnote 4
Giving Horrall's hemp hut testimony a plausibility it likely does not meritSee footnote 5 fails to help
Horrall's cause. The planned construction of a hemp hut does not make Horrall's possession of
the marijuana lawful. The Indiana Code simply does not provide a hemp hut exception (despite
its alliterative appeal) to the general rule that the possession of the "demon weed"See footnote
is illegal in
Indiana. Consequently, Horrall's challenge to the assessment on this basis fails.
Next, Horrall argues that others either possessed or manufactured (by cutting down the growing plant) the marijuana on the same day that he was assessed for the CSET. This fact is of no avail to Horrall. Even if others were subject to the tax (and in this case they are not), Horrall is not relieved of his tax liability. In a related argument, Horrall contends that because he did not manufactureSee footnote 7 the marijuana, his possession of marijuana is not taxable. This argument fails because the possession of marijuana (whether the possessor manufactured it or not) is taxable.
Horrall also argues that the assessment is fatally defective because the notice of proposed assessment listed the assessment period as May 20, 1993, (Rept's Ex. D) a day that Horrall could not possibly have possessed the marijuana due to his incarceration. The Department argues that Horrall was not prejudiced by this "apparent clerical error." (Rept's Post-Trial Br. at 6).
The notice of proposed assessment has various functions. First and foremost, it informs the taxpayer that the Department believes that the taxpayer owes tax. See Ind. Code Ann. § 6- 8.1-5-1(a) (West Supp. 1997). It also provides information concerning written protest procedures, see id. § 6-8.1-5-1(c), and serves as prima facie evidence that the Department's claim is valid. See id. § 6-8.1-5-1(b). (This has the practical effect of forcing the taxpayer to come forward with evidence demonstrating that the claim is invalid.) Lastly, the notice begins the
running of the sixty-day period in which a taxpayer must file a written protest or else lose his right
to challenge the assessment. See id. § 6-8.1-5-1(c).
These functions demonstrate that the notice of proposed assessment is an important procedural device. This leads to the conclusion that the slight factual error in the notice of proposed assessment given to Horrall does not impact the substantive question of Horrall's tax liability. There is no statutory requirement that a notice of proposed assessment contain completely accurate information concerning the basis for the Department's belief. Nor is there any evidence that the legislature intended the Department to be bound by factual representations contained in a notice of proposed assessment.
This Court acknowledges that there may be certain situations where factual errors in the notice of proposed assessment will prejudice taxpayers. In those instances, this Court will undoubtedly have adequate remedies at its disposal to cure any prejudice, short of holding the notice of assessment invalid. It is worth noting that Horrall could not possibly have been prejudiced by this factual inaccuracy. Horrall was not lulled into failing to file a written protest, nor was the preparation of his case affected. Horrall's claim that the assessment was fatally defective therefore fails.
Lastly, Horrall argues that the criminal statute outlawing possession of marijuana is void for vagueness. Horrall correctly asserts that criminalSee footnote 8 statutes must be sufficiently definite so as
to apprise a person of common intellect as to the type of conduct prohibited. See Payne v. State,
484 N.E.2d 16 (Ind. 1985). However, Indiana's statutory prohibition on the unlawful possession
of marijuana informs persons of ordinary intellect of the type of conduct prohibited. Likewise, the
statute making the unlawful possession of marijuana taxable is exceedingly clear. Horrall's
argument must therefore fail.
HORRALL: Well, . . . they would be grown into a structure that would support a
roof and walls.
. . . .
THE COURT: Let me see if I understand. You're saying that . . . you had these
plants planted in such a way that the stalks could grow up . . . [and] then you
could coax them into a form that they would grow into a hut.
(Trial Tr. at 35-36)
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