Reversal: Dealing narcotics conviction not supported by sufficient evidence

The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a woman’s felony conviction for dealing narcotics, finding there was insufficient evidence to prove she committed the crime.

Jennifer Hall was sitting in the passenger side of a vehicle involved in a controlled buy of heroin when the dealer, John Losson, handed her a bag of heroin to give to a confidential informant and a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives agent. Money was handed to Hall in exchange for the drugs, which she then gave to Losson.

Hall was later charged with Level 4 felony aiding, inducing, or causing dealing in a narcotic drug and alleged to have acted as an accomplice to manufacturing heroin because Losson packaged the drug. A jury convicted Hall of the charge, despite its ability to find her guilty of the lesser-included Level 5 felony offense.

In an appeal of her conviction, Hall asserted the state did not have enough evidence to prove she had aided Losson in packaging the heroin, which elevated her offense from a Level 5 felony to a Level 4 felony.

“Agent (Kristi) Schumacher’s testimony is too speculative to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Losson packaged the heroin that was sold in this case. We agree with the State that it is likely that he did package a larger amount of heroin into smaller baggies. But the mere likelihood that he did so based on common practices of drug dealers is not sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Losson packaged the heroin,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote in reversing the conviction.

“Here, there was no evidence that Hall had any knowledge of how or when Losson packaged the heroin. There was no evidence that Losson had scales or baggies in Hall’s presence or in the vehicle,” the panel continued. “The State only proved that Hall knew that Losson was dealing heroin to Agent Schumacher, and Hall was present during the crime and assisted Losson. This evidence is sufficient to support a Level 5 felony dealing conviction, but not the Level 4 felony dealing conviction requiring additional proof of manufacturing.”

Finding insufficient evidence pursuant to Indiana Code § 35-48-4-1(c)(2), the appellate court thus reversed and remanded with instructions to vacate Hall’s Level 4 felony conviction, enter a judgment of conviction for Level 5 felony dealing and resentence her accordingly.

However, the appellate court noted that because Hall testified extensively concerning her prior drug use and criminal history, it could not conclude that the admission of the challenged evidence of her prior criminal history constituted fundamental error.

The case is Jennifer L Hall v. State of Indiana,19A-CR-203.

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