People v. Leal, Cr. 9380

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtTOBRINER; TRAYNOR; McCOMB
Citation64 Cal.2d 504,50 Cal.Rptr. 777,413 P. 2d 665
Parties, 413 P.2d 665 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Manuel V. LEAL, Defendant and Appellant.
Decision Date02 May 1966
Docket NumberCr. 9380

Page 777

50 Cal.Rptr. 777
64 Cal.2d 504, 413 P.2d 665
The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
Manuel V. LEAL, Defendant and Appellant.
Cr. 9380.
Supreme Court of California,
In Bank.
May 2, 1966.

Carlyle Michelman, under appointment by the District Court of Appeal, and Raymond Gloozman, Los Angeles, for defendant and appellant.

Thomas C. Lynch, Atty. Gen., William E. James, Asst. Atty. Gen., and William L. Zessar, Deputy Atty. Gen., Los Angeles, for plaintiff and respondent.

TOBRINER, Justice.

Manuel V. Leal was charged by information with possession of heroin. (Health & Saf.Code, § 11500.) [64 Cal.2d 505] He waived a jury trial and the court found him guilty and sentenced him to the term prescribed by law. He appeals from the judgment, contending that the evidence is insufficient to show knowing possession of heroin. For the reasons discussed below, we believe the judgment must be reversed.

Late in the afternoon of April 8, 1963, Leal and his wife brought their young daughter, Martha, to the police station because she had run away from home. Outside

Page 778

[413 P.2d 666] the presence of her parents Martha spoke with Officer Stone and told him that she had left the house because her father had been taking narcotics and that he had hidden in the bathroom paraphernalia used by narcotics addicts. Officer Stone questioned Mrs. Leal about the presence of these objects, but she denied any knowledge of them. He asked her if he could go out and check the bathroom himself; she agreed and drove with him to defendant's home. The officer searched the bathroom, finding a wad of cotton, an eyedropper, a hypodermic needle, and a small spoon on which was encrusted one-half grain (approximately 32 milligrams) of crystallized substance later stipulated to contain heroin.

When Officer Stone returned to the station, he questioned defendant and placed him under arrest. The record does not indicate whether the officer advised defendant of his constitutional rights. To Officer Stone's question whether he knew of the items found in his bathroom, defendant asserted a total ignorance. Questioned as to whether he had ever used narcotics, he answered that he had done so three years previously. During this interrogation Officer Stone noticed for the first time that the pupils of defendant's eyes were pinpointed. Checking his arms, the officer observed scar tissue resembling hypodermic needle marks.

The present case requires us to determine whether the possession of implements which bear traces of a narcotic upon them can constitute the possession of the narcotic itself within the meaning of section 11500 of the Health and Safety Code. That statute prescribes heavy penalties for 'every person who possesses any narcotic other than marijuana 1 except upon the written prescription of a physician, dentist, podiatrist, or veterinarian licensed to practice in this State * * *.'

We sketch the development of the cases which interpret the statute in order to delineate, if possible, the test which the courts have evolved to define the proscribed possession. As we [64 Cal.2d 506] shall point out, some courts, reading the word 'any' in the statute as relating to the quantity of narcotic, as well as to its type, have held that the statutory ban extends to the possession of even the most minute traces. Other courts, as we shall snow, have reversed convictions in such cases. In part, they have relied upon the fact that section 11500 proscribes only the Knowing possession of narcotics. 2 These courts have held that the inference of knowledge cannot stand if the evidence discloses only minute quantities of narcotic residues, much altered from their original form. In prt, too, they have evinced a fundamental doubt that the statute, properly construed, applies to the possession of narcotics so limited in quantity or so altered in form as to be useless for narcotic purposes.

In People v. Salas (1936) 17 Cal.App.2d 75, 61 P.2d 771, apparently the first case in point, the appellate court sustained a conviction under the then-prevailing statute, 3 which made it unlawful to 'transport * * * or to have in possession any * * * morphine * * * except upon the written order or prescription of a physician and surgeon * * *.' The evidence in that case established that the defendant had been arrested while driving an automobile, that the car contained a spoon which bore traces of morphine, that the officers had seen defendant 'moving about' inside the car when they sounded their siren, and that the officers found a box containing tablets of morphine at the side of the road 120 feet from the point at which the siren had been sounded. The court affirmed the conviction, holding that the jury could properly find that defendant had thrown the

Page 779

[413 P.2d 667] box from the car. The court also observed, apparently by way of an alternative holding: 'It will be noted in this section that it is unlawful to possess Any morphine and no quantity is specified in order to bring one under the provisions of this act.' (P. 78, 61 P.2d p. 772.) 4

Upon a showing that a tobacco can in the defendant's possession contained an unspecified quantity of marijuana 'fragments,' the court in People v. Jones (1952) 113 Cal.App.2d 567, 248 P.2d 771, sustained a conviction for possession of marijuana. The court considered the quantity of the narcotic [64 Cal.2d 507] only as it bore on the accuracy of the identification of the fragments.

The facts in People v. Hyden (1953) 118 Cal.App.2d 744, 258 P.2d 1018, disclose that a forensic chemist recovered two milligrams of morphine from implements in the defendant's possession. The defendant urged that the amount recovered was 'insignificant' and could not sustain a conviction under section 11500. The court affirmed the conviction, noting: 'There was no evidence as to the relative effect of two milligrams of morphine, or as to what amount of morphine would be sufficient to be considered of any significance, and it would seem that that matter is not one concerning which judicial notice could properly be taken.' (P. 747, 258 P.2d p. 1020.) Although the court affirmed the conviction, the nature of its response to the defendant's contention suggests receptiveness to the view that the statute has no application to chemical traces with a negligible narcotic potential.

In People v. Anderson (1962) 199 Cal.App.2d 510, 18 Cal.Rptr. 793, the defendant when arrested had in his possession a capsule containing five milligrams of narcotic substance. The defendant contended that this amount was too small to uphold a conviction for possession of narcotics, urging that 'it would be impractical, if not impossible to make any real use of the five milligrams or less involved in this case.' As in Hyden, the court replied that defendant had introduced no Evidence in support of his contention. The court also stated: 'The cases hold that the statute does not require the possession of any specific quantity of narcotics.' 5 (P. 520 of 199 Cal.App.2d, p. 799 of 18 Cal.Rptr.)

The evidence in People v. Marich (1962) 201 Cal.App.2d 462, 19 Cal.Rptr. 909, consisted of 'several powdery fragments' of heroin found in the folds of a piece of paper, together with a piece of cotton which contained heroin residue. [64 Cal.2d 508] The court affirmed the conviction, observing that section 11500 makes it illegal 'to possess 'any narcotic other than marijuana. " (P. 465, 19 Cal.Rptr. p. 911; emphasis in the opinion.) Nevertheless, the court also laid stress upon the testimony of the People's expert witness that 'it would be possible for the residue which was present in the...

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139 practice notes
  • People v. Taylor, H047540
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 22, 2021
    ...the possession of an unusable amount—a trace amount or residue—of a controlled substance is not prohibited. (See People v. Leal (1966) 64 Cal.2d 504, 512, 50 Cal.Rptr. 777, 413 P.2d 665 [former section 11500] ; id. at p. 507, fn. 5, 50 Cal.Rptr. 777, 413 P.2d 665 [disapproving specified cas......
  • People v. Morales, No. S059461.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • March 5, 2001
    ...754, 94 Cal.Rptr. 607, 484 P.2d 583; People v. Sullivan (1965) 234 Cal. App.2d 562, 565, 44 Cal.Rptr. 524; see also People v. Leal (1966) 64 Cal.2d 504, 510, 50 Cal.Rptr. 777, 413 P.2d 665.) In People v. Palaschak (1995) 9 Cal.4th 1236, 1240-1241, 40 Cal.Rptr.2d 722, 893 P.2d 717 (Palaschak......
  • People v. Webb, Cr. 5354
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 5, 1966
    ...possession of traces of narcotics it must show that such residue was usable for consumption or sale. (See People v. Leal, 64 A.C. 529, 50 Cal.Rptr. 777, 413 P.2d 665, and People v. McCarthy, 64 A.C. 538, 50 Cal.Rptr. 783, 413 P.2d 671.) In the instant case the prosecution proved by the test......
  • People v. Nudd, Cr. 5787
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • August 21, 1973
    ...People v. Showers (1968) 68 Cal.2d 639, 68 Cal.Rptr. 459, 440 P.2d 939 (constructive possession of contraband) or People v. Leal (1966) 64 Cal.2d 504, 50 Cal.Rptr. 777, 413 P.2d 665 (usable quantity of a narcotic) compels a different The judgment is reverse. TAMURA, J., concurs. KAUFMAN, As......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
139 cases
  • People v. Taylor, H047540
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • January 22, 2021
    ...the possession of an unusable amount—a trace amount or residue—of a controlled substance is not prohibited. (See People v. Leal (1966) 64 Cal.2d 504, 512, 50 Cal.Rptr. 777, 413 P.2d 665 [former section 11500] ; id. at p. 507, fn. 5, 50 Cal.Rptr. 777, 413 P.2d 665 [disapproving specified cas......
  • People v. Morales, No. S059461.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • March 5, 2001
    ...754, 94 Cal.Rptr. 607, 484 P.2d 583; People v. Sullivan (1965) 234 Cal. App.2d 562, 565, 44 Cal.Rptr. 524; see also People v. Leal (1966) 64 Cal.2d 504, 510, 50 Cal.Rptr. 777, 413 P.2d 665.) In People v. Palaschak (1995) 9 Cal.4th 1236, 1240-1241, 40 Cal.Rptr.2d 722, 893 P.2d 717 (Palaschak......
  • People v. Vargas, Cr. 13535
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 9, 1975
    ...of the drug to establish the offense, improperly removed that issue from the consideration of the jury. (See People v. Leal (1966) 64 Cal.2d 504, 512, 50 Cal.Rptr. 777, 413 P.2d 665.) There is some authority for the proposition that the prosecution must establish that even if pills contain ......
  • People v. Chrisman, Cr. 5908
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 28, 1967
    ...the charge contained in count VI. The court's remarks indicated that its order was predicated upon the decision in People v. Leal (1966) 64 Cal.2d 504, 50 [256 Cal.App.2d 454] Cal.Rptr. 777, 413 P.2d 665, where the court concluded, 'the possession of a minute crystalline residue of narcotic......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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