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Maintaining a Common Nuisance Conviction Overturned

The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a man’s conviction for maintaining a common nuisance, because the State failed to prove that he used his car to facilitate dealing in marijuana. The Court ruled that the statute defining the charge of maintaining a common nuisance was not intended to apply to a person who has personal use quantities of a controlled substance in his pocket or even loose in the car. Maintaining a common nuisance is one of the most overcharged and abused criminal allegations in the State of Indiana. It is often used by prosecutors to turn misdemeanor possession of marijuana cases into felony charges. If you are charged with maintaining a common nuisance, it is critical to obtain the assistance of an experienced trial lawyer.

Maintaining a common nuisance is a Class D felony in Indiana and carries a penalty of 6 months to 3 years in prison. Possession of marijuana under 30 grams is a Class A misdemeanor and carries a penalty of 0 to 365 days in jail. The crime of maintaining a common nuisance requires the State to prove that a person maintained a building or car that is used by persons to use illegal drugs or for unlawfully manufacturing, keeping, selling, or financing controlled substances or drug paraphernalia. Prosecutors often charge people, who are arrested in a vehicle with marijuana or drug paraphernalia, with maintaining a common nuisance, which elevates a Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana to a Class D felony maintaining a common nuisance. The prosecutor then argues that the defendant was “keeping” the illegal drugs in a vehicle. The Court of Appeals has now ruled that such an allegation, unsupported by evidence of dealing or manufacturing of drugs, is insufficient to prove the charge of maintaining a common nuisance.

In the case referred to above, a man was pulled over for a traffic stop. He had been drinking and the police officer initiated a drunken driving (DUI) investigation. The defendant admitted to having marijuana and a pipe in his pocket. The man went to trial and was convicted of maintaining a common nuisance. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed his conviction, because the amount of marijuana was consistent with personal use and there was no evidence that he used his car to manufacture, sell, or deliver marijuana.

If you are investigated, or arrested, on any drug related charge, it is critically important that you exercise your right to an attorney and your right to remain silent. In reaction to this case, police may attempt to interrogate people found in vehicles with small amounts of marijuana, and try to get them to confess that their vehicle was used for dealing or consuming drugs. A coerced statement could change a misdemeanor possession of marijuana charge into a Class D felony charge of maintaining a common nuisance. Passengers should also be careful. If drugs are present in a vehicle, the passengers could be charged with visiting a common nuisance. If you are charged with a crime, you should always hire an experienced criminal attorney immediately. Your first defense is to exercise your right to remain silent and obtain a criminal attorney.

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Posted: 1/12/2010 9:55:15 AM by Brett Gibson
Filed under: common, maintaining, marijuana, nuisance


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