Criminal Drug Possession Requires Actual Proof Of Drugs
In a criminal case, it doesn’t necessarily matter what the government thinks you did, but rather what the government can prove you did. Put another way, the state must prove all elements of the charged offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This includes the basic facts of the crime itself.
Indiana Appeals Court Reverses Conviction Due to Lack of Proof Regarding THC Concentration
For example, in a drug crimes case, the prosecution must prove the defendant actually possessed an illegal controlled substance. That may sound like common sense. But there are cases where the state cannot meet this burden of proof.
Take this recent decision from the Indiana Court of Appeals, Laramore v. State. In this case, two police officers initiated a traffic stop of an illegally parked vehicle. While speaking to the occupants of the car, the officers claimed they smelled marijuana. The officers ordered the driver–the defendant–out of the car and proceeded to conduct a search of the vehicle, which revealed a pipe that was “being used to smoke dab,” a reference to a waxy material containing THC or marijuana.
Prosecutors charged the defendant with Class A misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance, namely THC. The defendant chose to have a judge try the case without a jury. The judge found the defendant guilty of the Class A misdemeanor as well as a Class C misdemeanor for possession of drug paraphernalia (the pipe).
The Court of Appeals reversed the Class A conviction, however, due to “reasonable doubt” over what was actually in the “dab” found on the defendant’s pipe. At trial, the state’s forensic scientist testified the dab was tested and found to contain THC. But the appeals court noted that she did not “perform a quantitative analysis on the substance, and, therefore, she did not determine the percentage of THC present in the substance.”
This was important. Under Indiana law, it is not illegal to possess a substance with a “low THC hemp extract,” which is defined as a substance or compound that contains no more than 0.3 percent THC. Without a quantitative analysis, however, there was no way to know whether the substance found on the defendant’s pipe exceeded the 0.3 percent threshold. The Court of Appeals said it was “possible” the defendant had a higher concentration. But a mere possibility was not sufficient proof. Indeed, the state’s expert conceded it was equally possible that the sample recovered from the pipe was below the 0.3 percent threshold. As such, the defendant’s conviction for drug possession could not stand. On the other hand, the Defendant’s conviction for Possession of Paraphernalia, a class C Misdemeanor, was affirmed.
Layton Laramore originally faced a Level 6 Felony charge, and up to 4 years in prison if convicted of all the charges the State initially filed against him. After his trial and conviction for 2 misdemeanors, Adams County Superior Court Judge Samuel Conrad sentenced Laramore to 2 months in jail, followed by 2 months of home detention and 1 year of probation. The Court of Appeals decision is not yet final, but if the State doesn’t seek transfer to the Indiana Supreme Court, the trial Court will have to re-sentence the Defendant. Given that he has almost certainly already served the maximum possible sentence in jail for a C Misdemeanor, plus an extra two months of home detention and some probation for his unlawful A Misdemeanor conviction, Laramore’s sentence will likely end as soon as the Trial Court resentences him.
Contact an Indianapolis Drug Crime Defense Attorney Today
You should never assume that just because the state charges you with a drug offense that means they have sufficient evidence to convict. This is why you should always work with an experienced Indianapolis drug crimes lawyer who can review the facts of your case and advise you of your options moving forward. Contact Rigney Law LLC today to schedule a free initial consultation with our criminal defense team.