Uncertain of meth’s status, COA tosses syringe conviction

August 4, 2015

A man who was convicted of two felonies for injecting himself with methamphetamine should not have been convicted of unlawful possession of a syringe, because it’s unclear whether meth qualifies as a legend drug, a Court of Appeals panel ruled Tuesday.

Dylan R. Smart’s conviction for Class D felony possession of methamphetamine stands, but he prevailed on his argument that the state had failed to show meth was a legend drug, a prerequisite for conviction on the Class D felony syringe charge.

Smart cited Bookwalter v. State, 22 N.E.3d 735 (Ind. Ct. App. 2014), trans. denied, in which a syringe conviction was vacated in a heroin case. “This court held that the statute was ambiguous as to whether the possession of a syringe without a valid prescription for a legend drug, insulin, or anabolic steroids, with intent to inject a non-legend drug, was sufficient to violate Indiana Code Section 16-42-19-18,” Judge Michael Barnes wrote for the panel.

Methamphetamine hydrochloride is a legend drug, but the panel concluded medical dictionary definitions are not helpful in resolving the issue of whether methamphetamine might qualify as a legend drug. As in Bookwalter, the panel under the rule of lenity construed the statute in favor of the defendant.

“We simply cannot make that connection based on the evidence presented. Consequently, we conclude that the State failed to present evidence that Smart possessed a syringe with the intent to violate the Legend Drug Act.  The evidence is not sufficient to sustain this conviction,” Barnes wrote.

The panel rejected Smart’s attack on the admissibility of drug field test results by the trial court as an abuse of discretion. Barnes wrote the court needn’t address that issue because there the test results were cumulative of other evidence, and any error in admitting the evidence was harmless.

The case is Dylan R. Smart v. State of Indiana, 29A02-1412-CR-887.




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