The Indiana Court of Appeals has affirmed a man’s conviction of unlawful syringe possession after finding sufficient evidence to support it. The court also rejected his argument that the state failed to prove he was non-Indian.
In Tyler Wesley Riggle v. State of Indiana, 20A-CR-357, Riggle was convicted of Level 6 felony unlawful possession of a syringe after being found lying face down near the entrance to the Four Winds Casino in St. Joseph County.
Riggle, who was exhibiting signs of an overdose, was twice administered Narcan by police officers and medics. For the medics’ safety, one of the officers performed a pat-down search of Riggle before he was transported to the hospital.
The officer found a syringe containing liquid, two empty syringes, a metal spoon, a cotton swab, and a cellophane wrapper in Riggle’s front pockets, which later tested to contain heroin. As a result of the search, Riggle was charged and later convicted of the felony and sentenced to serve 464 days.
On appeal, Riggle argued the state’s evidence was insufficient to support the conviction and that it failed to prove that he was a non-Indian. However, an appellate panel affirmed the trial court’s decision after finding sufficient evidence to support the conviction.
First, the appellate panel found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion when it determined that the state’s witness, Sergeant Schaaf, an officer with the Pokagon Band Tribal Police Department, was qualified to give an opinion and that his testimony was sufficient to establish the authority of the state to charge Riggle in the case.
It next held that the burden to show facts that would divest the trial court of jurisdiction under the Indian Country Crimes Act is on the defendant, not the state. The appellate panel therefore concluded that Riggle did not meet his burden of alleging his membership or affiliation with the Pokagon Tribe, or any tribe, in order to establish the trial court’s lack of jurisdiction.