In 2017, Gary Bounds, a patrol sergeant with Petal Police Department (PPD), observed a white vehicle making a left-hand turn onto Byrd Park Boulevard. The driver of the vehicle failed to use a turn signal. Sergeant Bounds proceeded to run the license plate number on the vehicle. The search revealed that the vehicle was registered to a female and that it had not been reported as stolen.
Sergeant Bounds followed the vehicle into Walmart’s parking lot. He noticed that the driver was a male, who was later identified as Lonnie McDaniel. Bounds turned on his blue lights and attempted a traffic stop when McDaniel fled the parking lot toward Officer Joey Scott, who had arrived to provide backup. After nearly hitting Scott, McDaniel began to drive westbound on Evelyn Gandy Parkway toward Old Richton Road. When he reached the intersection of Evelyn Gandy Parkway and Old Richton Road, McDaniel sped through a red light.
Sergeant Bounds testified that as they got to the church on Lynn Ray Road — or just past the church on Lynn Ray Road, he observed McDaniel throw a clear plastic bottle out the driver’s side window. Bounds then radioed the dispatcher to document where the object was thrown from the window since Bounds was still in pursuit of the vehicle.
After running numerous vehicles off the road during the high-speed chase, McDaniel drove the vehicle down a logging road, opened the driver’s side door while the vehicle was still moving, jumped out of the moving vehicle, and fled the scene. Bounds proceeded to chase McDaniel on foot but was unsuccessful. He then radioed the K-9 unit to help locate McDaniel. They were also unsuccessful. Afterward, Bounds returned to the abandoned white vehicle to search it. During his search he found a black cell phone that he secured in his patrol vehicle and logged into evidence.
Scott went back and recovered a clear bag with a crystal-like substance in it believe to be methamphetamine (1.785 grams).
Casey Walley, an investigator with the PPD, examined the black phone taken from the white vehicle. After obtaining a search warrant to open the phone and determine ownership, Walley found that the phone was logged into McDaniel’s Facebook, Gmail, and Google accounts. Walley testified that the defendant’s name, Lonnie McDaniel, was associated with all three accounts. Upon further investigation, Walley determined that the owner of the phone was labeled in the contacts section as “LL McDaniel.”
McDaniel was convicted of felony fleeing and possession of a controlled substance and sentenced to eight years. On appeal, he argued he was not in possession of the drugs. MCOA affirmed.
In Glidden, MSC said that to support a conviction for possession of a controlled substance, there must be sufficient facts to warrant a finding that the defendant was aware of the presence and character of the particular substance and was intentionally and consciously in possession of it.
To establish constructive possession, the drug simply has to be found near the defendant in a place over which the defendant exercises dominion or control. The defendant’s location in connection with the drugs is not a determinative factor in establishing constructive possession. Notably, the elements of constructive possession may be proven by circumstantial evidence.
During the trial, the State presented the jury with ample evidence to consider whether or not McDaniel had actual or constructive possession of the drugs found: (a) eyewitness testimony from Officer Scott and Sergeant Bounds that the driver of the white vehicle was McDaniel; (b) eyewitness testimony from Sergeant Bounds that McDaniel threw a plastic object from the vehicle during the chase; (c) testimony from Sergeant Bounds as to the proximate location of the thrown plastic object; (d) testimony from Officer Scott that the plastic bag was found shortly after the chase ended in the proximate location Sergeant Bounds described; (e) testimony from Investigator Walley that the cell phone found inside the white vehicle was logged in to McDaniel’s social media and email accounts; and (f) expert testimony that the contents of the plastic bag were methamphetamine.
Reviewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, rational jurors could have found that the State proved each element needed to convict McDaniel. Accordingly, the evidence was sufficient to support McDaniel’s conviction.