A plea agreement has allowed all but one of the 21 criminal charges filed against Laura L. Nowling to be dismissed and the former elementary teacher to plead guilty to possession of less than five grams of methamphetamine in her classroom, a Level 5 felony.
Nowling, 48, was taken into custody last February 25 at the Austin schools’ administrative building after school authorities became aware the woman had the illegal homemade drug in her purse and called her out of the classroom. Her purse was stored in her classroom away from her young students but still possibly accessible to the children.
Her original charges included 14 counts of neglect of a dependent, all Level 6 felonies, as well as two counts of possession of meth, both Level 5 felonies, and possession of a narcotic drug, unlawful possession of a syringe and maintaining a common nuisance, all Level 6 felonies, and one Class B misdemeanor charge of possession of marijuana.
All of those charges were dismissed except the first Level 5 felony possession of meth within 500 feet of a school. Nowling appeared with her attorney in the case, Mark Dove of North Vernon, on Tuesday, December 27, before Circuit Court Judge Roger Duvall to hear her sentencing on the charge.
Because Nowling had no prior criminal record, she was sentenced to three years, with two years to be served on supervised probation under the direction of the Scott County Probation Department. She was also ordered to be directly placed into home detention for the one year left to serve under the supervision of the Scott County Community Corrections Department. Under home detention, she could travel to pre-approved destinations for limited periods of time. Nowling received credit for 62 days already served in the case.
Conditions also included Nowling entering a program of drug/alcohol recovery and completing it at her own cost. She was also ordered to pay court costs and a drug interdiction fee of $500.
Further, the plea agreement allows Nowling to eventually petition the court to amend her conviction to a Level 6 felony and, eventually, to a Class A misdemeanor. Conditions for these steps are steeper; Nowling must successfully complete home detention and supervised probation as well as follow all court directives before any conviction could be lessened. She cannot have any other felony convictions nor can she have any pending criminal matter.
The Prosecutor’s Office reserved its right to argue against any such petitions.
Her jury trial date of January 25 was erased from the Circuit Court calendar.
Though the plea agreement terms are restrictive, Nowling could have been released that Tuesday to live at her home on North Slab Road. But she wasn’t because Nowling and three other people, which included two of her children, were arrested on December 4 at her home. Her warrant was based on two alleged purchases of meth from her by a confidential informant in November and December.
Nowling remains at the Scott County Security Center in lieu of a $50,000 cash bond assigned to the Level 4 felony case. In this case, she has received the services of a public defender, and her trial date is scheduled for April 11.