Thursday, April 5, 2018

My nephew, Noah Hayes Shuler, is charged with possession of a "rubber marijuana pipe, with burnt residue," and here is the law that governs his case

Noah Shuler and Aubrynne Russell
My nephew, Noah Hayes Shuler, faces a charge for possession of drug paraphernalia, in the wake of a traffic stop in Sparta, Missouri, where his girlfriend (Aubrynne Russell) was ticketed for speeding, 11-15 mph over the limit. The case involves some curious record-keeping, and facts in the matter raise questions about possible drug trafficking, but such matters likely will not be investigated in a small jurisdiction such as Sparta.

What is the law governing the charges against Noah, and what punishment does it include for those convicted? The state statute is RSMO 579.074, and Sparta City Code 210.540 pretty much mirrors the state law. From, the Missouri statute, in part:

579.074. 1. A person commits the offense of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia if he or she knowingly uses, or possesses with intent to use, drug paraphernalia to plant, propagate, cultivate, grow, harvest, manufacture, compound, convert, produce, process, prepare, test, analyze, pack, repack, store, contain, conceal, inject, ingest, inhale, or otherwise introduce into the human body, a controlled substance or an imitation controlled substance in violation of this chapter or chapter 195.

As for Noah, the police incident report describes him as the owner of a "rubber green colored marijuana pipe with burnt residue inside it," which was found in Russell's 2013 black Cadillac. Noah also was described as the owner of three sandwich bags with marijuana residue. What about possible punishment? (Incident report is embedded at the end of this post.) This is from the statute:

2. The offense of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia is a class D misdemeanor, unless the person has previously been found guilty of any offense of the laws of this state related to controlled substances or of the laws of another jurisdiction related to controlled substances, in which case the violation of this section is a class A misdemeanor. Prior findings of guilt shall be pleaded and proven in the same manner as required by section 558.021.

Noah probably will be looking at a Class D misdemeanor, but the offense can get into felony territory, under certain circumstances:

3. The offense of unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia is a class E felony if the person uses, or possesses with intent to use, the paraphernalia in combination with each other to manufacture, compound, produce, prepare, test, or analyze amphetamine or methamphetamine or any of their analogues.

The police report does not indicate that any form of amphetamine was involved in the Sparta case, so this likely will not involve a felony. Noah was deemed the owner of three sandwich bags, all containing marijuana residue, and the vehicle was not searched -- meaning someone could have dumped the contents of the bags in the vehicle, and it would not have been found.

Based on our research, the presence of a pipe suggests an individual was engaging in personal use of weed. But the presence of three baggies -- which if full, probably contained one ounce of marijuana each -- suggests someone might have been involved in dealing or distribution. Our understanding is that three ounces is a whole lot of marijuana, way more than the casual user would possess. Of course, we don't know if the bags were full at some point, but if they were, it would merit a serious investigation of possible drug dealing or distribution. Such an investigation is not likely to occur in a jurisdiction as small as Sparta, with what appears to be a two-man police department.

Punishment for a Class D misdemeanor in Missouri is a fine of not more than $500. Before records for Noah's case disappeared from, a hearing was set for April 12 before Judge Andrew Todd Brown in Sparta Municipal Court. Brown is not a full-time judge; he spends most of his time as a divorce lawyer in Republic, MO, and he appears as a Facebook friend of my lawyer-brother, David Shuler.

Oddly, records for Aubrynne Russell's speeding charge (160572245 - CITY OF SPARTA V AUBRYNNE LAINE RUSSELL) still appear at They show her hearing on April 12, at 1:30 p.m., also before Judge Brown. She has the same attorney, Russell Dempsey, as Noah Shuler. If I were giving Ms. Russell advice, I'd say having the same lawyer as Noah is not a good idea, especially since the charge against him is the much more serious of the two, and it's the kind of charge where someone could try to lay blame at her feet.

Why does Ms. Russell's speeding charge still appear at, while Noah Shuler's possession-of-drug-paraphernalia has disappeared into the ether? Is this a sign that someone is selling Ms. Russell down the river, and she doesn't even know it? Is this a sign of preferential treatment for Noah because he's the son of a lawyer (my brother, David Shuler), while Ms. Russell could be hung out to dry?

The record suggests Noah's case doesn't exist anymore, that someone has taken care of him. Meanwhile, it doesn't appear anyone has taken care of Ms. Russell; her case still is very much out there, according to public records. If I were her, I would be more than a little concerned about that.

(To be continued)

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