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COA reverses syringe possession conviction due to lack of evidence

December 9, 2014

Because the state couldn’t prove that a man intended to use a syringe to inject a legend drug, as is required by the statute to convict him of possession of a syringe, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the man’s conviction. The man intended to use the syringe to inject heroin, which is not covered by the statute.

Lafayette police arrested Stuart Bookwalter after he and a friend prepared to inject heroin that Bookwalter had purchased in Illinois. Police were monitoring Bookwalter’s travels to and from the Chicago area. A search of his car recovered 18 grams of heroin and several syringes. Bookwalter was charged with dealing in a narcotic drug, possession of a syringe and possession of paraphernalia.

He was found guilty as charged and found to be a habitual substance offender.

In Stuart Bookwalter v. State of Indiana, 79A04-1402-CR-69, Bookwalter claimed that he could not be convicted of possession of a syringe because the evidence shows he intended to inject heroin as opposed to a legend drug. To convict him under I.C. 16-42-19, the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Bookwalter possessed, with intent to violate the Legend Drug Act, a hypodermic syringe or needle for use of a legend drug by injection in a human being.

“[T] he expressed purpose of the Legend Drug Act is to supplement Indiana’s statutory scheme related to food, drug, and cosmetics safety, and most provisions of the Act pertain to the use of legend drugs, insulin, and anabolic steroids. Without reference to the use of a legend drug, insulin, or anabolic steroids, we cannot discern what it means to intend to violate the Legend Drug Act,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote.

Given the Act’s ambiguity, the COA must construe the statute in favor of Bookwalter to conclude that intent to inject heroin is not fairly covered by the Legend Drug Act’s definition of possession of a syringe.

In addition to reversing Bookwalter’s syringe possession conviction, the judges ordered his conviction of possession of a narcotic drug reversed based on double jeopardy concerns. The possession of a narcotic drug conviction and the dealing in a narcotic drug conviction were based on the same evidence.

There is sufficient evidence to uphold the Class A felony dealing in a narcotic drug conviction, the judges ruled. The case is remanded for further proceedings.
 

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