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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. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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