Maintaining common nuisance conviction reversed

A lack of evidence proving the elements of maintaining a common nuisance means a woman’s conviction on that charge must be vacated and her drug-dealing sentence reduced by 18 months, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Friday.

Shalee Dowell was charged with Level 2 felony dealing methamphetamine and Level 6 felony counts of obstruction of justice and maintaining a common nuisance after she was arrested driving a gold Oldsmobile Alero left of center in May 2018 and officers found the drug. A Perry Circuit jury convicted her after a trial in 2019, and she was sentenced to 23 years — 20 for the meth-dealing conviction and a year and a half each served consecutively on the Level 6 counts.

The obstructing charge stemmed from communications Dowell had with her sister instructing her to remove a bong, electronic scales, a glass beaker and other items from the family’s house and dump them. The maintaining a common nuisance charge arose from a text message presented as evidence in which Dowell stated, “My car got repoed so I’ll be in a gold alero.”

Because there is only evidence of one drug transaction involving the Alero, “That single instance of use is not sufficient to prove Dowell committed Level 6 felony maintaining a common nuisance,” Judge Melissa May wrote for the panel, citing Leatherman v. State, 101 N.E.3d 879, 884 (Ind. Ct. App. 2018). “… Accordingly, we vacate her conviction of and sentence for that offense.”

The case is Shalee C. Dowell v. State of Indiana, 19A-CR-2623.

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