State v. Williams, No. 98-2055.

CourtCourt of Appeal of Florida (US)
Writing for the CourtBROWNING, J.
Citation742 So.2d 509
PartiesSTATE of Florida, Appellant, v. Robert E. WILLIAMS, Appellee.
Docket NumberNo. 98-2055.
Decision Date15 October 1999

742 So.2d 509

STATE of Florida, Appellant,
v.
Robert E. WILLIAMS, Appellee

No. 98-2055.

District Court of Appeal of Florida, First District.

October 15, 1999.


742 So.2d 510
Robert A. Butterworth, Attorney General; and Laura Fullerton Lopez, Assistant Attorney General, Tallahassee, for Appellant

William R. Wade, Milton, for Appellee.

BROWNING, J.

The State of Florida appeals the trial court's ruling granting a motion for judgment of acquittal after a jury verdict finding Robert E. Williams guilty of possession of cocaine. We have jurisdiction. § 924.07(1)(j), Fla. Stat. (1997); Fla. R.App. P. 9.140(c)(1)(E). Our review of the record indicates that the State presented sufficient evidence of actual possession to support the jury's determination of guilt. Therefore, we reverse the order granting the judgment of acquittal and remand with instructions to reinstate the jury's verdict.

The State charged Williams with unlawfully and knowingly being in actual or constructive possession of a controlled substance (cocaine) (Count One), and unlawful use or possession with intent to use drug paraphernalia (a pipe) (Count Two), on or about February 20, 1998. The case proceeded to trial on Count One only.1 At the end of the State's case, the defense moved for judgment of acquittal on the ground that the State had not proved Williams' dominion and control of the contraband in a jointly occupied vehicle. The State argued that a jury question was presented on the issues of actual and/or constructive possession. The trial court took the motion under advisement, and the jury found Williams guilty. After the verdict, the motion for judgment of acquittal was revisited, and the trial court found that the State had not proved Williams' guilty knowledge

742 So.2d 511
of the contraband. The court issued an order granting the motion for judgment of acquittal and ordered Williams' release from custody

As the appellant, the State carries the burden of demonstrating to this court that the trial court prejudicially erred. § 924.051(7), Fla. Stat. (1997). A motion for judgment of acquittal is designed to challenge the legal sufficiency of the evidence. If the State has presented competent evidence to establish every element of the crime, then a judgment of acquittal is improper. Peacock v. State, 498 So.2d 545 (Fla. 1st DCA 1986). The following rule is well-settled:

Generally, on a motion for judgment of acquittal, the court should not grant the motion unless, when viewed in a light most favorable to the state, the evidence does not establish the prima facie case of guilt.

Dupree v. State, 705 So.2d 90, 93 (Fla. 4th DCA 1998) (en banc); Proko v. State, 566 So.2d 918 (Fla. 5th DCA 1990). Likewise:

A defendant, in moving for a judgment of acquittal, admits not only the facts stated in the evidence adduced, but also admits every conclusion favorable to the adverse party that a jury might fairly and reasonably infer from the evidence.

Lynch v. State, 293 So.2d 44, 45 (Fla.1974); Boyce v. State, 638 So.2d 98 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994). The Supreme Court of Florida has set out the trial court's duty as follows:

It is the trial judge's proper task to review the evidence to determine the presence or absence of competent evidence from which the jury could infer guilt to the exclusion of all other inferences.

State v. Law, 559 So.2d 187, 189 (Fla.1989); Spinkellink v. State, 313 So.2d 666 (Fla. 1975). We have de novo review of the record to determine whether sufficient evidence supports the jury's verdict. See State v. Eversley, 706 So.2d 1363, 1364 (Fla. 2d DCA 1998) (trial court erred in granting motion for judgment of acquittal where sufficient evidence in record supported jury's guilty verdict); State v. Powell, 636 So.2d 138 (Fla. 1st DCA 1994) (finding competent substantial evidence in the record to support the jury's guilty verdict, this court reversed order granting motion for judgment of acquittal).

The motion for judgment of acquittal alleged the State's failure to present a prima facie case of possession of crack cocaine. To prove possession, the State was required to show that Williams possessed a certain substance, that the substance was cocaine, and that he had knowledge of the presence of the substance. Chicone v. State, 684 So.2d 736, 745 (Fla.1996). Possession can be actual or constructive. "Actual possession" exists where a defendant has physical possession of contraband and knowledge of such possession. Gartrell v. State, 626 So.2d 1364 (Fla.1993) (defendant, a back-seat passenger, was in exclusive physical possession of cocaine that was found in a side pocket in her purse, which she had used as a head rest or pillow, so that knowledge of the contraband could be presumed); Jean v. State, 638 So.2d 995, 996 (Fla. 4th DCA 1994); Hively v. State, 336 So.2d 127 (Fla. 4th DCA 1976). The standard instructions, which were read to the jury, provide that if something "is in the hand of or on the person," or is "in a container in the hand of or on the person," or "is so close as to be within ready reach and is under the control of the person," it is in that person's actual possession. Fla. Std. Jury Instr. (Crim.) 300 (July 1997); Chicone, 684 So.2d at 745.

"Constructive possession" exists where a defendant does not have actual physical possession of contraband but knows of its presence on or about his premises and has the ability to exercise and maintain control over the contraband. Brown v. State, 428 So.2d 250 (Fla.1983); Wilcox v. State, 522 So.2d 1062 (Fla. 3d DCA 1988). To show constructive possession, the State must demonstrate that the defendant exercised dominion and control

742 So.2d 512
over the contraband, had knowledge of the presence of the contraband, and had knowledge of the illicit nature of the substance. Brown, 428 So.2d at 250; Hill v. State, 736 So.2d 133 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999); Farmer v....

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59 practice notes
  • Durousseau v. State , No. SC08–68.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • February 21, 2011
    ...element of the crime, then a motion for judgment of acquittal must be denied and the denial affirmed on appeal. See State v. Williams, 742 So.2d 509, 511 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999). “Once that threshold burden is met, it becomes the jury's duty to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to ex......
  • Espada v. Sec'y, Case No. 2:08-cv-504-FtM-36DNF
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • September 26, 2011
    ...when viewed in a light most favorable to the state, the evidence does not establish a prima facie case of guilt. State v.Page 47Williams, 742 So. 2d 509 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999). As admitted by Defendant in his Motion, the victim testified at trial that she was raped by Defendant. Accordingly, b......
  • State v. Sims, No. 1D12–1421.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • March 25, 2013
    ...in a criminal case is reviewable by appeal. See§ 924.07(1)(j), Fla. Stat. (2010); Fla. R. App. P. 9.140(c)(1)(E); State v. Williams, 742 So.2d 509 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999); State v. Odom, 56 So.3d 46 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011). Whether the evidence is sufficient to support a conviction is a question of......
  • Durousseau v. State Of Fla., No. SC08-68
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • December 9, 2010
    ...element of the crime, then a motion for judgment of acquittal must be denied and the denial affirmed on appeal. See State v. Williams, 742 So. 2d 509, 511 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999). "Once that threshold burden is met, it becomes the jury's duty to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to e......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
59 cases
  • Durousseau v. State , No. SC08–68.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • February 21, 2011
    ...element of the crime, then a motion for judgment of acquittal must be denied and the denial affirmed on appeal. See State v. Williams, 742 So.2d 509, 511 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999). “Once that threshold burden is met, it becomes the jury's duty to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to ex......
  • Espada v. Sec'y, Case No. 2:08-cv-504-FtM-36DNF
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 11th Circuit. United States District Court of Middle District of Florida
    • September 26, 2011
    ...when viewed in a light most favorable to the state, the evidence does not establish a prima facie case of guilt. State v.Page 47Williams, 742 So. 2d 509 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999). As admitted by Defendant in his Motion, the victim testified at trial that she was raped by Defendant. Accordingly, b......
  • State v. Sims, No. 1D12–1421.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • March 25, 2013
    ...in a criminal case is reviewable by appeal. See§ 924.07(1)(j), Fla. Stat. (2010); Fla. R. App. P. 9.140(c)(1)(E); State v. Williams, 742 So.2d 509 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999); State v. Odom, 56 So.3d 46 (Fla. 5th DCA 2011). Whether the evidence is sufficient to support a conviction is a question of......
  • Durousseau v. State Of Fla., No. SC08-68
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Florida
    • December 9, 2010
    ...element of the crime, then a motion for judgment of acquittal must be denied and the denial affirmed on appeal. See State v. Williams, 742 So. 2d 509, 511 (Fla. 1st DCA 1999). "Once that threshold burden is met, it becomes the jury's duty to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to e......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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