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constructive possession can be proven with circumstantial evidence

Facts

Police received a tip from a confidential informant that two black males were selling cocaine out of a room at the Western Motel in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Police obtained a search warrant and raided the room. Roventay Peden and Lewis Clemons were in the motel room; both men were lying under the covers in separate beds.

Police found a small bag of cocaine in Clemons’s pocket. Another bag containing rocks of crack cocaine was located on a table between the two beds. This bag was approximately six inches from Peden’s bed and within arm’s length of Peden. Clemons pled guilty to possession of cocaine and testified at Peden’s trial that the bag on the table was not Clemons’s.

Peden was convicted of possession of cocaine and sentenced to seven years. On appeal, he argued that 1) he was not in constructive possession of the cocaine and 2) the search warrant was faulty because it did not state when the confidential informant saw the cocaine in the room. MCOA affirmed.

Analysis

A. Constructive possession

In Glidden, we said that constructive possession of drugs may be shown by establishing that the drugs involved were subject to the defendant’s dominion or control. Proximity is usually an essential element, but by itself is not adequate in the absence of other incriminating circumstances.

Peden argued that his proximity to the cocaine was the only evidence of the ownership of the bag. He claimed that Clemons rented the motel room, making him the “owner” of the premises.

However, Clemons had his own bag of cocaine in his pocket. It is reasonable to infer that the bag next to Peden’s bed, which was within his reach, actually belonged to Peden. Furthermore, although Clemons did not state that the cocaine on the table belonged to Peden, he did testify that the bag on the table was not his.

In Fontenot, we said that the elements of constructive possession may be proven by circumstantial evidence. Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, there was sufficient evidence to convict Peden of constructive possession of the cocaine, and a rational juror could have found that the State proved all of the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. This issue is without merit.

B. Search warrant

Peden claims that the cocaine found was the result of an unreasonable search and seizure because the information from the confidential informant was not current; he claims that the affidavit for the search warrant does not state when the confidential informant saw the narcotics in the room.

Officer Ralph Sciple, who talked with the confidential informant, testified that the informant had been in the motel room two to three hours prior to the officer’s request for the search warrant. It was also noted on the search warrant that all of the events supporting the warrant had occurred within the past 24 hours. We find nothing to indicate the information obtained from the confidential informant was stale.

Further, Sciple said that he had been given truthful information from the informant in the past. In Cooper, we said that the veracity of a confidential informant may be established by a statement of the affiant that the confidential informant has given credible information in the past. Accordingly, we find that the judge properly denied the motion to suppress the search warrant.

 

https://courts.ms.gov/images/Opinions/CO90423.pdf