State v. Villavicencio

Decision Date20 November 1972
Docket NumberNo. 2298,2298
Citation502 P.2d 1337,108 Ariz. 518
PartiesThe STATE of Arizona, Appellee, v. Reyes Marrufo VILLAVICENCIO, Appellant.
CourtArizona Supreme Court

Gary K. Nelson, Atty. Gen., by Louis A. Moore, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Phoenix, for appellee.

Ross P. Lee, Maricopa County Public Defender, by William C. Blakley, Deputy Public Defender, Phoenix, for appellant.

CAMERON, Vice Chief Justice.

This is an appeal from jury verdicts and judgment of guilt to the crimes of possession of heroin for sale, § 36--1002.01 A.R.S. and possession of marijuana, § 36--1002.05 A.R.S.

We are called upon to determine:

1. whether the State failed to present sufficient facts to show constructive possession plus actual knowledge of narcotics which were found in a box on the open back porch of the defendant's apartment, and

2. whether it is relevant and proper to show that a person in possession of a large quantity of narcotics is not himself a user of narcotics when the defendant is accused of possession for sale.

The facts necessary for a determination of this matter on appeal are as follows. At the defendant's trial, the State's case was based on the testimony of three Phoenix police officers and a criminalist for the City of Phoenix. All three of the police officers participated in a search of the defendant's apartment. Directly behind defendant's row of apartments is a row of apartments similar to the defendant's. One officer testified that the area between the two rows of apartments was 'completely open and accessible to anybody who would want to walk through.' The narcotics were found at the bottom of a cardboard box containing discarded children's clothing a few inches from the back wall of the apartment and next to a concrete block partition on an open 'porch' or concrete slab next to the back door of the apartment. Following the presentation of the State's case-in-chief, the defendant's motion for a directed verdict was denied. Villavicencio took the stand in his own behalf and denied any knowledge of the narcotics. The defendant's wife also testified as did the defendant's next door neighbor. The jury returned verdicts finding the defendant guilty as to both offenses. Because the State of California wanted the defendant returned for parole violation and further incarceration, the trial court suspended the imposition of sentences and placed the defendant on probation for five years on count one and one year on count two.

POSSESSION OF THE NARCOTICS--MOTION FOR DIRECTED VERDICT

It is the defendant's contention that the State failed to prove or raise an inference of possession or constructive possession with actual knowledge of the presence of the unobviously placed narcotics that were discovered on his back porch and that therefore the court erred in denying defendant's motion for directed verdict.

In the case of Carroll v. State, 90 Ariz. 411, 368 P.2d 649 (1962), we held that the crime of possession of narcotics requires physical possession or constructive possession with actual knowledge of the presence of the narcotic substance. Constructive possession is generally applied to those circumstances where the drug is not found on the person of the defendant nor in his presence, but is found in a place under his dominion and control and under circumstances from which it can be reasonably inferred that the defendant had actual knowledge of the existence of the narcotics. Exclusive control of the place in which the narcotics are found is not necessary.

In the instant case, while it is true that the open back porch was accessible to those using the area between the two rows of apartments, nevertheless both the cardboard box containing the narcotics and its location were under the dominion and control of the defendant and under circumstances from which the jury could find that he knew of the existence of the narcotics:

'Unlawful possession of narcotics is established by proof that the accused exercised dominion and control over a substance, that he had knowledge of its presence, and that he had knowledge that the substance was a narcotic. (citations omitted) Constructive possession is all that is necessary, and this may be proved by circumstantial evidence. (citations omitted) These holdings by the California courts are consistent with the pronouncements of this Court as to the elements required for a conviction for possession of narcotics. See State v. Quinones, 105 Ariz. 380, 465 P.2d 360 (1970); State v. Moreno, 92 Ariz. 116, 374 P.2d 872 (1962).' State v. Arce, 107 Ariz. 156, 160, 483 P.2d 1395, 1399 (1971).

We find that the jury could reasonably find from the evidence that the defendant was guilty of possession of heroin for sale and possession of marijuana, and hold that the trial court did not err in denying the motion by the defendant for a directed verdict.

FAILURE TO GRANT MISTRIAL AFTER PROSECUTOR'S INFERENCE THAT PERSONS WHO ARE NOT SELLERS ARE USERS

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59 cases
  • State v. Albritton
    • United States
    • Arizona Court of Appeals
    • December 19, 2013
    ...must be such that a jury can reasonably infer that the defendant had knowledge of the contraband's presence. State v. Villavicencio, 108 Ariz. 518, 520, 502 P.2d 1337, 1339 (1972). The state may prove constructive possession through direct or circumstantial evidence. Gonsalves, 231 Ariz. 52......
  • State v. Ballinger
    • United States
    • Arizona Court of Appeals
    • January 9, 1973
    ...from which it can be reasonably inferred that the defendant had actual knowledge of the existence of the narcotics 2.' State v. Villavicencio, 108 Ariz. 518, 502 P.2d 1337 (filed November 20, 1972); Carroll v. State, Supra. Such constructive possession may be proved by circumstantial eviden......
  • Cary v. State
    • United States
    • Arkansas Supreme Court
    • March 22, 1976
    ...Smith v. United States,385 F.2d 34 (5 Cir., 1967); Hernandez v. United States, 300 F.2d 114 (5 Cir. 1962); State v. Villavicencio, 108 Ariz. 518, 502 P.2d 1337 (1972); State v. Trowbridge, 157 Mont. 527, 487 P.2d 530 (1971); State v. Bellam,225 La. 445, 73 So.2d 311 (1954); People v. McDani......
  • State v. Hall
    • United States
    • Arizona Court of Appeals
    • June 3, 2014
    ...must be such that a jury can reasonably infer that the defendant had knowledge of the contraband's presence. State v. Villavicencio, 108 Ariz. 518, 520, 502 P.2d 1337, 1339 (1972). The state may prove constructive possession through director circumstantial evidence. Gonsalves, 231 Ariz. 521......
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