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COA: Possession of syringe doesn’t support conviction

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Because the state did not introduce evidence that a man intended to use a syringe found in his pocket after being stopped by police to inject a controlled substance into his body, his conviction for Class A misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia must be reversed, the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded.

The judges overturned the conviction in Tony Sluder v. State of Indiana, 03A01-1305-CR-208, in which Tony Sluder argued insufficient evidence to show he intended to use the syringe to introduce a controlled substance into his body.

Sluder was riding his moped when stopped by Columbus police officer Troy Love, who recognized Sluder and confirmed he had outstanding warrants. When Love searched Sluder, he did not find the syringe. Officer Angela Owens, who responded to a call to transport Sluder to jail, searched Sluder again and found the syringe.

Sluder initially denied the syringe was his, then later claimed the syringe was his sister’s, which he used to feed puppies after their mother was killed. It was in his pocket because he fed the puppies earlier that day. He was convicted at a bench trial after the judge found Sluder’s and his sister’s testimony not credible.

“The State argues in its brief that Sluder exhibited behavior indicating a consciousness of guilt because he denied that the syringe was his but testified to a different story at trial and allegedly hid the syringe,” Judge Nancy Vaidik wrote. “Merely denying ownership of an item without more is insufficient to indicate a consciousness of guilt. Second, there is no evidence that Sluder hid the syringe when he was arrested. … The mere fact that the syringe was not found until the second search is not evidence that Sluder hid the syringe.”
 

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  1. Frankly, it is tragic that you are even considering going to an expensive, unaccredited "law school." It is extremely difficult to get a job with a degree from a real school. If you are going to make the investment of time, money, and tears into law school, it should not be to a place that won't actually enable you to practice law when you graduate.

  2. As a lawyer who grew up in Fort Wayne (but went to a real law school), it is not that hard to find a mentor in the legal community without your school's assistance. One does not need to pay tens of thousands of dollars to go to an unaccredited legal diploma mill to get a mentor. Having a mentor means precisely nothing if you cannot get a job upon graduation, and considering that the legal job market is utterly terrible, these students from Indiana Tech are going to be adrift after graduation.

  3. 700,000 to 800,000 Americans are arrested for marijuana possession each year in the US. Do we need a new justice center if we decriminalize marijuana by having the City Council enact a $100 fine for marijuana possession and have the money go towards road repair?

  4. I am sorry to hear this.

  5. I tried a case in Judge Barker's court many years ago and I recall it vividly as a highlight of my career. I don't get in federal court very often but found myself back there again last Summer. We had both aged a bit but I must say she was just as I had remembered her. Authoritative, organized and yes, human ...with a good sense of humor. I also appreciated that even though we were dealing with difficult criminal cases, she treated my clients with dignity and understanding. My clients certainly respected her. Thanks for this nice article. Congratulations to Judge Barker for reaching another milestone in a remarkable career.

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