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United States v. Heredia

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Heredia appealed a possession charge after not checking her vehicle to discern whether or not she possessed illicit substanes.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    An individual can be charged with possession of a controlled substance if the individual did not know that they possessed the controlled substance.

    Facts.

    Heredia was stopped at the Mexican border for possession of 349 pounds of marijuana. Heredia claimed that she mistaked the scent for laundry detergent and that she was suspicious of her unemployed mother for carrying a large amount of cash. Heredia never checked the car for drugs and was convicted on possession charges. Heredia appealed.

    Issue.

    Whether an individual can be charged with possession of a controlled substance if the individual did not know that they possessed the controlled substance?

    Held.

    Yes. The jury instruction on deliberate ignorance was proper and Heredia’s conviction is affirmed. Heredia had a suspicion that she was carrying controlled substances but failed to inspect the vehicle to confirm that fact.

    Dissent.

    (Graber, J.) Heredia’s conviction is improper because she did not have actual knowledge that she was bringing drugs across the border. Heredia had to know what she was doing ot be convicted of deliberate ignorance.

    Concurrence.

    (Kleinfeld, J.) Deliberate ignorance is a proper jury instruction only where the defendant void actual knowledge so that they would not become criminally liable.

    Discussion.

    A person can be charged with the possession of a controlled substance if the individual had suspicion that the substance was illegal but continued to possess the substance without verifying that the substance was illegal.


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