In 1989, law enforcement officers, specifically officer Revere Christopher, received information from a confidential informant that some individuals from Louisiana desired to sell a quantity of cocaine. The narcotics task force set up the arrest of defendants Alvin Jackson and Larry Jackson, with the participation of Boise Moore, the confidential informant.
Officer Christopher was informed that there would be three cars following one another on Interstate 10. Moore would be in the lead car, a red Ford Mustang with a Louisiana tag and two black males would follow, with a Chrysler LeBaron taking the third position. The LeBaron was the car indicated and believed to have the drug package. From this information, the officers effectuated a plan of surveillance concerning the narcotics stop. The car was stopped and searched and the controlled substances were found.
A. Jackson and L. Jackson were convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and sentenced to 25 years. On appeal, they argued the search of the vehicle was illegal and that they were not in possession of the drugs. MSC affirmed on both of those issues but reversed the case on other grounds (they were not present for the commencement of the trial).
A. Automobile search
Following U.S. Supreme Court case United States v. Ross, 456 U.S. 798 (1982), a stop of a vehicle based on probable cause justifies the search of every part of vehicle that may conceal the object of search.
Christopher testified that he received a call from a confidential informant, named Boise O’Neal Moore. Christopher relayed that Moore was a very reliable informant and that he had double checked the information regarding the defendants through the New Orleans Police Department and the Drug Enforcement Agency. Moore had informed Christopher that there were three cars which would be traveling through the Mississippi Gulf Coast area on Interstate I-10.
Moore indicated that his car would lead, that the second car would be a red Ford Mustang 5.0 with two black males, and that the third car, a LeBaron, would contain the drugs. No search warrant was obtained. There was no dispute; the officers admitted that there was “plenty of time” to request a search warrant.
No contraband was found in the Jacksons’ car. However, Christopher testified that the Jacksons were not free to leave because: (1) the officers had information that the defendants were involved in narcotics trafficking; (2) the vehicle they were driving fit the same make, model, and Louisiana license plate of the car described by Moore; (3) the posture of the car was the second car as Moore said would be following the informant and (4) the defendants were connected to the car carrying drugs by rental agreement.
Officer Collins testified that once the LeBaron was stopped, the officers removed Harvey from the car and moved Harvey to the rear of the vehicle. The officers then read Harvey his Miranda rights. During a cursory search of the car, officer Collins found a duffle bag with what felt like guns inside. Collins testified that at that point he asked defendant Harvey if he could search the car.
Harvey replied that he could and that the car did not belong to him. Collins admitted that he searched the contents of the bag without Harvey’s specific consent. Collins also admitted that there was nothing to prevent him from seeking a search warrant once he had control of the duffle bag.
There was sufficient probable cause to stop and search the Harvey car. Because probable cause existed and the search involved an automobile, it was permissible for the officers to search the car and its contents without a search warrant and without the consent of Harvey. It is obvious to the court that the officers’ information more than justified the probable cause to make a warrantless stop of the vehicle. Thus, we find the contention that the evidence must be suppressed to be without merit.
The defendants contend that the State failed to prove that they were either in actual possession or constructive possession of the cocaine beyond a reasonable doubt.
Because the drugs were found in Harvey’s car, the State necessarily had to establish the Jacksons were in constructive possession of the cocaine. What constitutes a sufficient external relationship between the defendants and the narcotic property to complete the concept of possession is a question which is not susceptible of a specific rule.
To prove constructive possession, the State must have provided evidence that the contraband was under the dominion and control of the defendant. Where the defendant is not in control of the premises, that is, the car, the State has the burden of providing competent evidence which would connect the defendant to the cocaine.
We find that such competent evidence did exist to connect the defendants with the cocaine. Beyond the testimony presented by Officer Christopher, there was the corroborating testimony of Harvey. A summary of the facts before the jury includes:
(1) the defendant Larry Jackson physically gave Harvey the cocaine;
(2) the transfer of the cocaine took place at the Jacksons’ place of business, the Magic Sun;
(3) all events occurred under the direction of Larry Jackson;
(4) Harvey, an employee, transported the Jacksons’ cocaine in a car that had been rented by Alvin Jackson;
(5) Harvey did not know where he was going, therefore, he followed the Jacksons’ car;
(6) while still in New Orleans, Harvey lost track of the car and went back to the Jacksons’ place of business;
(7) defendants, Alvin and Larry Jackson, returned to the place of business and started out again to deliver the cocaine in Mississippi.
Additionally, positive proof that the defendants were linked to the Harvey car included rental papers found in the LeBaron with Alvin Jackson’s signature. There is absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the defendants were aware of the presence and character of the cocaine, and that they exercised dominion and control over it, sufficient for the jury to find constructive possession. Thus, this assigned error is without merit.