In Evans v. State, the Fourth District explains that police must show that an illegal drug actually belonged to a certain person in order to convict him for possession.
After seeing Timothy Evans exit a house under surveillance by Florida law enforcement, an undercover officer approached Evans and arranged to buy 45 oxycodone pills from him. The officer later drove back to the house and called Evans on a cell phone to let him know that the officer was outside. Evans emerged from the house, got into the officer’s unmarked car and gave him 45 pills in exchange for $675 as they had previously agreed. A second police officer watched the exchange from another undercover vehicle.
The police arrested Evans when he attempted to leave the house in his car. They later obtained a warrant to search the home, where officers found loose marijuana among other items. Evans was charged with oxycodone trafficking and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. The trial court denied his motion for acquittal on the latter charge, in which Evans argued that there wasn’t enough evidence to tie him to either the house or the bedroom in which the marijuana was found to establish that the drug was his.
At trial, Evans’ cousin testified that she lived at the house, but Evans did not. The home was allegedly owned by Evans’ sister, on whose behalf he collected rent each month. Meanwhile, Evans’ girlfriend testified that she had been living with him in another city for about a year at the time of his arrest. A jury nevertheless found him guilty on both charges. Evans was sentenced to more than 65 months in prison with a minimum term of at least three years.
The Fourth District overturned the marijuana conviction on appeal, however, ruling that there was not enough evidence to show that he actually possessed the drug. “Because the defendant was not in actual possession of the marijuana, the state had to prove constructive possession,” the court explained, meaning that he had “dominion and control” over either the weed or the house.
Although police saw him come out of the house on two separate occasions and Evans admitted that he occasionally stayed there, the court said the evidence was not sufficient to show that he actually lived at the house. While officers found a photo of Evans next to the marijuana and men’s clothes in the bedroom where the drugs were found, they simply did not rebut his claim that the marijuana wasn’t his, according to the court. As a result, the court reversed Evans’ conviction for marijuana possession.
If you’re facing a drug possession charge in Florida, it is important that you seek the advice of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who can advocate and mount a defense on your behalf. At Anidjar & Levine, our South Florida drug possession lawyers have years of experience handling drug possession cases. We work with clients to develop an effective legal defense in order to get charges dismissed or reduced.
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