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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 will be filing a lawsuit in Tippecanoe County for so many violations in a case we became involved in, including failure to contact through mail, Violation of 4th Amendment rights, Violation of Civil Rights, and so on. Even the Indiana Ombudsmen Bureau found violations and I have now received the report and they are demanding further training in Tippecanoe County. I am going to make sure they follow through!!!

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  3. I thought the purpose of the criminal justice center was to consolidate all the criminal services and get them out of downtown to clean up the place. Why in the HELL are the civil courts moving? What a burden to all the downtown law firms. Now we all get to work downtown, but then have to get in a car and COMMUTE to court? Who approved this idiocy?

  4. I drive through the neighborhood whenever I go to the City-County Building or the Federal Courthouse. The surrounding streets are all two way with only two lanes of traffic, and traffic is very slow during rush hour. I hope that enough money has been allocated to allow for improvement of the surrounding streets.

  5. I have had an ongoing custody case for 6 yrs. I should have been the sole legal custodial parent but was a victim of a vindictive ex and the system biasedly supported him. He is an alcoholic and doesn't even have a license for two yrs now after his 2nd DUI. Fast frwd 6 yrs later my kids are suffering poor nutritional health, psychological issues, failing in school, have NO MD and the GAL could care less, DCS doesn't care. The child isn't getting his ADHD med he needs and will not succeed in life living this way. NO one will HELP our family.I tried for over 6 yrs. The judge called me an idiot for not knowing how to enter evidence and the last hearing was 8 mths ago. That in itself is unjust! The kids want to be with their Mother! They are being alienated from her and fed lies by their Father! I was hit in a car accident 3 yrs ago and am declared handicapped myself. Poor poor way to treat the indigent in Indiana!

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