Kotila v. Kentucky
114 S.W.3d 226 (2003)

  • A police officer saw Kotila reaching into the window of a car in a store parking lot. He suspected that Kotila was stealing something from the car.
  • The officer questioned Kotila, who identified himself and said that he was putting something into his friend's car because he didn't have the key. The officer recognized Kotila's name from an unrelated drug investigation. They found the friend (Newhouse) who consented to a search of the car.
    • The search turned up materials used to make methamphetamine, and the car's license plates were fake.
  • Kotila was arrested for possession of drugs.
  • The Trial Court found Kotila guilty of drug possession. He appealed.
    • The specific Kentucky Statute that Kotila was accused of violating said that a person is guilty if they "possess the chemicals or equipment for the manufacture of methamphetamine with the intent to manufacture methamphetamine."
      • How do you define the?
    • Kotila argued that while he was in possession of some of the raw materials to make methamphetamine (all legal to possess by the way), he was not in possession of anhydrous ammonia, which is a key material.
  • The Appellate Court reversed.
    • The Appellate Court found that, upon a plain reading of the Statute, Kotila was not in possession of the chemicals for the manufacture of methamphetamine.
    • The big question in this case was how the Court was to interpret the word the in the Statute. There are several possible interpretations:
      • It could be interpreted that the Statute means that you only have to possess some of materials.
        • However, this would be an absurd result because then anyone with a mason jar and cotton balls is violating the law.
      • It could be interpreted as meaning all of the materials.
        • However this could allow people to avoid prosecution because they are not in possession of an easily obtainable item such as a mason jar.
    • The Court looked at another Statute that specifically criminalizes of the possession of anhydrous ammonia. The Court found that if the meant some, then there would be no reason for the Statute specifically criminalizing ammonia possession. Therefore the only logical interpretation of the was all.
      • Aka the Rule Against Surplusages.