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Court reverses handgun conviction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed today a defendant's conviction of carrying a handgun without a license because the circumstantial evidence doesn't support that the man had the requisite intent to constructively possess the gun.

In Donnell Jones v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0909-CR850, Donnell Jones appealed his Class C felony carrying a handgun without a license conviction following his traffic stop for speeding. Jones, a mechanic, was test-driving a customer's car on his way home from work and was drinking alcohol in the car. The police officer saw Jones reaching around the front floor board of the car and in the back seat. It took the officer two attempts to stop Jones, who drove away the first time the officer stopped him.

The officer found open containers of alcohol in the car. After Jones was arrested and transported, police found a handgun under the driver's seat.

The state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Jones carried the handgun without a license, and had actual or constructive possession over the gun by showing he had the intent and capability to maintain control over the gun.

Jones testified he didn't know about the handgun and that he was just trying to hide the alcohol from the officer, but the trial court discredited his testimony on that because Jones couldn't remember being pulled over the first time. The jury found him guilty of carrying a handgun without a license as a Class C felony, for which he was sentenced to five years executed. He also was sentenced to one year executed for operating a vehicle while intoxicated conviction, to be served concurrently with the handgun sentence.

The Court of Appeals found sufficient evidence to support Jones' conviction of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, but insufficient evidence supporting his conviction of carrying a handgun without a license, wrote Judge James Kirsch.

"In cases such as this, where the driver does not have exclusive possession of the vehicle for a long period of time before the handgun is found, we are hesitant to impute possession of the handgun solely on control of the vehicle as evidence of intent," wrote the judge.

In addition, Jones made no incriminating statements about the handgun found during the inventory of the car, and his actions of reaching around the floorboard and other seats could be because he was moving alcohol containers. The evidence showed an open bottle of gin on the hump of the front passenger side of the vehicle, unopened beer cans on the front floorboard, and an open can of beer was on the rear floorboard behind the driver's seat.

The circumstantial evidence was inadequate to support an inference of intent to carry a handgun without a license beyond a reasonable doubt.

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  1. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  2. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  3. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  4. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

  5. I am compelled to announce that I am not posting under any Smith monikers here. That said, the post below does have a certain ring to it that sounds familiar to me: http://www.catholicnewworld.com/cnwonline/2014/0907/cardinal.aspx

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