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Folk v. Maryland

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Appellant was arrested after an officer approached a vehicle and detected a strong odor of marihuana. The Appellant was found to have joint possession and control over the marihuana in the vehicle.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Based on the totality of the circumstance, one may have joint possession and joint control of a narcotic, even if the officer never directly saw the individual with the narcotic.

    Facts.

    Corporal Carl R. Harbaugh from the Maryland State Police Department operated in an unmarked vehicle in civilian clothing while he conducted a surveillance of a red Valiant automobile on Frederick city.  Approximately fifteen minutes to twenty minutes later, Harbaugh and another State Trooper, who joined him, approached the red Valiant automobile when it was parked in a secluded, abandoned baseball diamond. The vehicle’s lights and motor were off and the windows were slightly closed. When Harbaugh was approaching the vehicle, the left front window was lowered, and Harbaugh was able to detect a strong odor of marihuana. At that time, all of the occupants in the vehicle were ordered to exit the vehicle. One occupant, who exited from the right side of the vehicle, tried to throw something onto the grass nearby. The object was immediately recovered and found to be a plastic container containing marihuana. Appellant, Lillie Mae Folk, was one of the six occupants in the vehicle. The officers never found any evidence that she had directly possess the marihuana, but the evidence did indicate that some person or persons in the vehicle had possession of the marihuana.

    Issue.

    Whether Appellant had joint possession of the marihuana cigarette in the vehicle when the officer never saw Appellant in direct possession of the marihuana.

    Held.

    Yes, the State offered sufficient evidence that Appellant had joint control and possession of the marihuana in a tight-closed automobile.

    Discussion.

    Under Maryland law, it is well settled that “(T)here may be joint possession and joint control in several persons . . . .â€Â  To constitute joint possession, the State solely needs to prove that the defendant controlled so much of the marihuana to allow her to take a puff of the marihuana cigarette.  Here, Appellant’s proximity to the marihuana could not be closer, given that she was in a Valiant automobile with six occupants in arm length to each other occupant. Therefore, proximity is clearly established. Additionally, knowledge is has been established by the State by asserting proof that the car was darkened in a darkened field and had a lighted marihuana cigarette. Likewise, the odor of the marihuana in such a tight-closed automobile also indicates that Appellant had knowledge of the marihuana.  Therefore, a reasonable juror could find that Appellant and the other occupants in the car had mutual use and enjoyment of the marihuana cigarette.



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