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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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