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Name: People v. Davis
Case #: S198434
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 07/25/2013

Jury could not properly infer that MDMA was a controlled substance based solely on its chemical name when that substance is not listed in the Health and Safety Code. Davis sold an undercover police officer two pills containing 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA) at a rave party. He was convicted of sale and possession of a controlled substance in violation of Health and Safety Code section 11377. The appellate court affirmed, holding that there was sufficient evidence despite neither a stipulation nor expert testimony showing that MDMA met the definition of a controlled substance. The appellate court took judicial notice of scientific treatises to draw conclusions about MDMA’s composition and relationship to methamphetamine. It held that as a matter of “common sense” MDMA’s chemical name which includes the term methamphetamine supported the inference that the pills contained some quantity of methamphetamine. The California Supreme Court reversed. In order to convict Davis, proof that MDMA qualified as a controlled substance was required. The appellate court wrongly concluded that the jury could rely on common sense to infer from its chemical name that MDMA contained methamphetamine or amphetamine. Because it is not specifically listed in any controlled substance schedule in the Health and Safety Code, evidence of MDMA’s chemical name, standing alone, is insufficient to prove that it contains a controlled substance. The matter is not within the common knowledge of laypersons.