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State didn't prove man used car to keep drug

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The Indiana Court of Appeals overturned a conviction of maintaining a common nuisance because the state failed to prove the defendant used his car to keep marijuana.

In Robin Lovitt v. State of Indiana, No. 73A05-0904-CR-229, Robin Lovitt argued there wasn't enough evidence to show he committed Class D felony maintaining a common nuisance. Police pulled over Lovitt's car after seeing him cross the center line and fail to use his turn signal. Lovitt admitted to having a few drinks; his blood alcohol content level was .07 and he tested positive for a metabolite of marijuana. He had marijuana in his pocket.

In addition to the maintaining a common nuisance conviction, he was also convicted of various drugs offenses and operating while intoxicated.

The state's case against Lovitt relied on proving that he knowingly or intentionally maintained his car for keeping a controlled substance. The state claimed it didn't matter that the marijuana was in his pocket while he was driving the car.

The Court of Appeals interpreted "keeping" in terms of the statute as implying the controlled substance has to be contained within the vehicle itself or that the car is used to store the substance for further manufacture, sale, delivery, or financing of delivery of the controlled substance, wrote Judge Paul Mathias.

The statute isn't intended to apply to an offender who has personal use quantities of controlled substances on his or her person or even loose in a vehicle.

"To hold otherwise would make every drug arrest after a traffic stop subject to an additional charge of maintaining a common nuisance. We do not believe this to be the intent of our General Assembly," wrote the judge.

Lovitt also challenged the exclusion of testimony of one of his witnesses, Lois Crouch. Crouch is friends with Patricia Newbold, who was a passenger in the car. Crouch would have testified that Newbold told her that the police officer pulled Lovitt's car over immediately after Lovitt passed the officer, contrary to what the officer stated.

The trial court didn't abuse its discretion in excluding the testimony, and any error in excluding it was harmless.

"We cannot conclude that it is likely that Crouch's testimony would have led the jury to find Lovitt's and Newbold's version of events credible," Judge Mathias wrote. "Even if the jury believed Lovitt and Newbold, the evidence was still sufficient to convict Lovitt of possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia, and operating while intoxicated."

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  1. "pedigree"? I never knew that in order to become a successful or, for that matter, a talented attorney, one needs to have come from good stock. What should raise eyebrows even more than the starting associates' pay at this firm (and ones like it) is the belief systems they subscribe to re who is and isn't "fit" to practice law with them. Incredible the arrogance that exists throughout the practice of law in this country, especially at firms like this one.

  2. Finally, an official that realizes that reducing the risks involved in the indulgence in illicit drug use is a great way to INCREASE the problem. What's next for these idiot 'proponents' of needle exchange programs? Give drunk drivers booze? Give grossly obese people coupons for free junk food?

  3. That comment on this e-site, which reports on every building, courtroom or even insignificant social movement by beltway sycophants as being named to honor the yet-quite-alive former chief judge, is truly laughable!

  4. Is this a social parallel to the Mosby prosecutions in Baltimore? Progressive ideology ever seeks Pilgrims to burn at the stake. (I should know.)

  5. The Conour embarrassment is an example of why it would be a good idea to NOT name public buildings or to erect monuments to "worthy" people until AFTER they have been dead three years, at least. And we also need to stop naming federal buildings and roads after a worthless politician whose only achievement was getting elected multiple times (like a certain Congressman after whom we renamed the largest post office in the state). Also, why have we renamed BOTH the Center Township government center AND the new bus terminal/bum hangout after Julia Carson?

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