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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. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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