State v. Webb, No. 00-1487.

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Iowa
Writing for the CourtLAVORATO, Chief Justice.
Citation648 N.W.2d 72
Docket NumberNo. 00-1487.
Decision Date17 July 2002
PartiesSTATE of Iowa, Appellee, v. Anthony WEBB, Appellant.

648 N.W.2d 72

STATE of Iowa, Appellee,
v.
Anthony WEBB, Appellant

No. 00-1487.

Supreme Court of Iowa.

July 17, 2002.


648 N.W.2d 74
Linda Del Gallo, State Appellate Defender and Patricia Reynolds, Assistant Appellate Defender, for appellant

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Kevin Cmelik, Assistant Attorney General, John P. Sarcone, Polk County Attorney and Daniel C. Voogt, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee.

LAVORATO, Chief Justice.

The defendant, Anthony Webb, appeals from his conviction and sentence for possession of a controlled substance (marijuana) in violation of Iowa Code section 124.401(1)(d), failure to affix a drug tax stamp in violation of Iowa Code sections 453B.3 and 453B.12, and child endangerment in violation of Iowa Code section 726.6 (1999). He contends, among other things, that the evidence was insufficient to support these convictions. The court of appeals affirmed the judgment of the district court. On further review, we vacate the judgment of the court of appeals and

648 N.W.2d 75
reverse the judgment of the district court as to all three convictions and sentences

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable toward the State, we think the jury could have found the following facts.

On February 9, 2000, Urbandale police arrived at an apartment complex in response to an anonymous complaint. They came into contact with Jason Stansbury, who was in a vehicle at the time. The officers searched Stansbury's vehicle for a handgun and illegal drugs, but found nothing.

The officers then went to the apartment shared by Stansbury, Crisee Moore, and Webb. Moore gave the officers permission to search the living room area for weapons. One officer saw "in plain sight... several pieces of marijuana stems and seeds." The officer asked Moore for consent to search the apartment for drugs, but she denied any further search without a search warrant. The officers secured the apartment and obtained a warrant.

Armed with the warrant, the officers searched the rest of the apartment. The officers found a marijuana-smoking bong in the northwest bedroom. They also found on a scale in a kitchen drawer small pieces of plant material, which later tested positive for marijuana.

Under the bathroom sink off the southwest bedroom (where Moore and Webb slept), the officers found a bag containing an unloaded .44-caliber handgun, five rounds for the gun, and cigarette rolling papers. Partial fingerprints lifted from the gun were inconclusive. None of the other items seized were tested for fingerprints. One officer testified that the gun and bullets found in the bathroom would have been accessible to anyone in the apartment including visitors and Moore's minor son.

A box of plastic sandwich bags were found sitting on the couch in the living room. The officers found a coin purse containing a marijuana pipe in the apartment. In the freezer compartment of the refrigerator, the officers found a plastic container of marijuana and a plastic bag containing a brick of marijuana. The plastic container contained approximately 315 grams (11 ounces) of marijuana. The plastic baggie contained approximately 54.4 grams (2 ounces) of marijuana. No drug tax stamps were affixed to the marijuana.

Moore's child was present in the apartment with Moore when the officers first entered. One officer put the child's age at "older than two," and another put the child's age at six or seven. The child was not Webb's son.

Webb arrived at the apartment several hours after the officers' initial contact with Moore. When Webb arrived, the officers took $336 in cash from him. Webb told the officers he received the money from Moore.

Webb told the officers he was not employed, except for babysitting Moore's son. Webb, however, was not babysitting the child on that day.

We present additional facts as they relate to the issues we discuss.

I. Issues.

As mentioned, Webb challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support all three convictions. We consider separately each conviction in light of this challenge.

II. Scope of Review.

We review challenges to the sufficiency of the evidence supporting a guilty verdict for correction of errors at law. State v. Heard, 636 N.W.2d 227, 229 (Iowa 2001). We will uphold a verdict if substantial record evidence supports it. Id. Evidence

648 N.W.2d 76
is substantial if it would convince a rational fact finder that the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Id.

We review the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, including legitimate inferences and presumptions that may fairly and reasonably be deduced from the evidence in the record. Id. The court considers all the evidence in the record, not just the evidence that supports the verdict. Id.

The State must prove every fact necessary to constitute the crime with which the defendant is charged. State v. Gibbs, 239 N.W.2d 866, 867 (Iowa 1976). The evidence must raise a fair inference of guilt and do more than create speculation, suspicion, or conjecture. State v. Hamilton, 309 N.W.2d 471, 479 (Iowa 1981).

III. The Drug Convictions.

The district court instructed the jury that the charges of intent to deliver and failure to affix a drug tax stamp both include the element that the defendant knowingly possessed marijuana. In his motion for judgment of acquittal, Webb argued, as he does here, that there was insufficient evidence to connect him with the drugs. Additionally, he argued that because he did not have exclusive control of the premises, a conviction of the two charges could not be based on his constructive possession of the drugs. Therefore, Webb preserved error on the sufficiency of the evidence issue relating to the drug charges.

The State contends that it can satisfy the knowledge element of both charges by showing Webb maintained or shared exclusive dominion and control over the place where the drugs were found. To support its position, the State relies heavily on our decision in State v. Simpson, in which we held that an inference of knowledge and control is warranted when the defendant shares exclusive dominion and control over the place where the drugs are found. 528 N.W.2d 627, 632 (Iowa 1995). The State has apparently overlooked our recent decision in State v. McDowell, in which we "signal[ed] the court's return to a proper application of the principles of constructive possession as set forth in State v. Reeves, 209 N.W.2d 18 (Iowa 1973)" and "implicitly reject[ed] the erroneous application of those principles made in State v. Simpson...." McDowell, 622 N.W.2d 305, 309 (Iowa 2001) (Ternus, J., concurring specially).

A. Background.

Because the issue here is one of constructive possession, we think it would aid our analysis to discuss several significant cases bearing on that issue.

We begin with Reeves, a case in which this court for the first time decided what constitutes "possession" of a drug within the meaning of our controlled substance statute. 209 N.W.2d at 21. The State, we said, had to prove three elements: "(1) the accused exercised dominion and control (i.e., possession) over the contraband, (2) [the accused] had knowledge of the [contraband's] presence, and (3) the accused had knowledge that the material was a narcotic." Id.

Relying on precedent from other jurisdictions, the court concluded in Reeves that the State need not prove actual possession; proof of constructive possession would be enough. Id. at 22. Put another way, the "dominion and control" of the contraband necessary to constitute possession does not mean that the contraband "needs to be found on the [accused's] person." Rather, all that is necessary is that the accused "maintains control or a right to control" the contraband. Id. This control of the contraband or the right to control it in the

648 N.W.2d 77
absence of actual possession is constructive possession. Id.

In Reeves, we outlined the circumstances under which inferences may be used and inferences that are not available to prove constructive possession—the control or right to control the contraband:

Proof of opportunity of access to a place where [contraband is] found will not, without more, support a finding of unlawful possession.
....
[P]ossession may be imputed when the contraband is found in a place which is immediately and exclusively accessible to the accused and subject to his dominion and control, or to the joint dominion and control of the accused and another.
....
If the premises on which [the contraband is] found [is] in the exclusive possession of the accused, knowledge of [its] presence on such premises coupled with his ability to maintain control over such [contraband] may be inferred. Although no further proof of knowledge by the State is required in cases of exclusive possession by the accused the inference of knowledge is rebuttable and not conclusive. But where the accused has not been in exclusive possession of the premises but only in joint possession, knowledge of the presence of the [contraband] on the premises and the ability to maintain control over [the contraband] by the accused will not be inferred but must be established by proof. Such proof may consist either of evidence establishing actual knowledge by the accused, or evidence of incriminating statements or circumstances from which a jury might lawfully infer knowledge by the accused of the presence of the [contraband] on the premises.

Id. at 22-23 (emphasis added).

In State v. Rudd, 454 N.W.2d 570 (Iowa 1990), we retreated from these principles regarding when inferences could be employed to support a finding of constructive possession, i.e., the control or right to control the contraband. In Rudd, we approved an instruction that defined constructive possession as follows:

Constructive possession occurs when the defendant maintains the control or a right to control the place where the controlled substance is found, and may be inferred when the substance is found in a place which is
...

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169 practice notes
  • State v. Kern, No. 11–1208.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 24, 2013
    ...“[t]he evidence must raise a fair inference of guilt and do more than create speculation, suspicion, or conjecture.” State v. Webb, 648 N.W.2d 72, 76 (Iowa 2002). B. Discussion.Iowa Code section 124.401(1) makes it unlawful for any person to manufacture, deliver, or possess with the intent ......
  • State v. Schlitter, No. 13–0346.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 10, 2016
    ...Such a finding could only be based on speculation. Speculation and conjecture cannot be used to support a verdict. See State v. Webb, 648 N.W.2d 72, 76 (Iowa 2002) (“The evidence must raise a fair inference of guilt and do more than create speculation, suspicion, or conjecture.”). Thus, the......
  • State v. Lacey, 20-0030
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 30, 2021
    ...to the jury's verdict. We will affirm the jury's verdict when the verdict is supported by substantial evidence. State v. Webb , 648 N.W.2d 72, 75–76 (Iowa 2002). Evidence is substantial when the quantum and quality of evidence is sufficient to "convince a rational fact finder that the defen......
  • State v. Taylor, No. 02-1268.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 19, 2004
    ...III. Sufficiency of the Evidence. A. General principles. Our review is for the correction of errors of law. See State v. Webb, 648 N.W.2d 72, 75-76 (Iowa 2002). Thus, the trial court's factual findings are binding on appeal if supported by substantial evidence. State v. Hopkins, 576 N.W.2d ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
169 cases
  • State v. Kern, No. 11–1208.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • May 24, 2013
    ...“[t]he evidence must raise a fair inference of guilt and do more than create speculation, suspicion, or conjecture.” State v. Webb, 648 N.W.2d 72, 76 (Iowa 2002). B. Discussion.Iowa Code section 124.401(1) makes it unlawful for any person to manufacture, deliver, or possess with the intent ......
  • State v. Schlitter, No. 13–0346.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • June 10, 2016
    ...Such a finding could only be based on speculation. Speculation and conjecture cannot be used to support a verdict. See State v. Webb, 648 N.W.2d 72, 76 (Iowa 2002) (“The evidence must raise a fair inference of guilt and do more than create speculation, suspicion, or conjecture.”). Thus, the......
  • State v. Lacey, 20-0030
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • December 30, 2021
    ...to the jury's verdict. We will affirm the jury's verdict when the verdict is supported by substantial evidence. State v. Webb , 648 N.W.2d 72, 75–76 (Iowa 2002). Evidence is substantial when the quantum and quality of evidence is sufficient to "convince a rational fact finder that the defen......
  • State v. Taylor, No. 02-1268.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Iowa
    • November 19, 2004
    ...III. Sufficiency of the Evidence. A. General principles. Our review is for the correction of errors of law. See State v. Webb, 648 N.W.2d 72, 75-76 (Iowa 2002). Thus, the trial court's factual findings are binding on appeal if supported by substantial evidence. State v. Hopkins, 576 N.W.2d ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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