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Wheeler v. United States

    Brief Fact Summary. Appellants were found guilty of possession of heroin. Appellants argue that although they were in the room that the heroin was in, this is insufficient to show they were in possession of it.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. When there are circumstances that give rise to an inference of a concert of illegal action involving drugs by the occupants of the premises where the drugs are found, a constructive possession theory could be sustained.

    Facts. The police executed a search warrant pursuant to an informant who had told the police that the female occupants were selling heroin. The police announced themselves and then heard noises behind the door. When they entered, the toilet was heard flushing. Four women were in the room. The police found heroin and arrested two of the women who said they lived in the room. The State prosecuted on a theory of constructive possession, which Appellants argue against. Appellants were convicted and timely appealed.

    Issue. Whether there was sufficient evidence presented to uphold a theory of constructive possession.

    Held. Affirmed.
    Mere proximity to an illegal substance will be insufficient to uphold a conviction on a theory of constructive possession when an individual is one of several found on the premises with the substance.

    Even where the illegal substance is found in a defendant’s home, courts are wary of imputing possession absent proof that the defendants were involved in a criminal enterprise.

    Where there are circumstances giving rise to an inference of a concert of illegal action involving drugs by the occupants of the premises where the drugs are found, a constructive possession theory could be sustained.


    Discussion. The Court noted that the Government’s case rested entirely on circumstantial evidence. However, the Court noted that Appellants admitted to living in the room, they failed to open the door when the police announced themselves and the police heard a toilet flushing. These facts, along with the alias used by Appellants were sufficient to support a theory of constructive possession.


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