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In re R.L.H.

    Brief Fact Summary.

    R.L.H. violated her probation when she tested positive for methamphetamine, opiates, and marijuana. At the probation violation hearing, R.L.H. admitted to using methamphetamine. When she ran away from the drug treatment facility the court had ordered her to be in, the State moved to place her in a detention center. The jury found R.L.H. committed a crime while on probation, and R.L.H. was moved to a detention facility.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    Absent corroborating evidence that the defendant voluntarily and knowingly had possession of the illegal substance, a positive urine or blood analysis alone is not sufficient to prove that the defendant possession the illegal substance.

    Facts.

    R.L.H., a juvenile female, was placed on probation for a prior assault. In September 2002, R.L.H. was found to be in violation of her probation for using and possession marijuana. Subsequently, the State placed her in a shelter. On December 2002, R.L.H. tested positive for methamphetamine, opiates, and marijuana in a urine analysis. At the probation hearing, R.L.H. admitted to using methamphetamine, and the court order her to undergo drug treatment. Later, R.L.H. ran away from the drug treatment facility, and the State moved to place her in a detention facility. Nevertheless, in order to place R.L.H. in a detention facility, the State was required to prove that she committed a crime while on probation. The jury convicted R.L.H. of possession of methamphetamines, marijuana, and opiates based on her 2002 positive urine test and her subsequent admission to using methamphetamine in the probation violation hearing.

    Issue.

    Whether a positive urinalysis is sufficient proof to determine if the defendant had constructive possession of a controlled substance.

    Held.

    Yes, the presence of a controlled substance in a person’s blood or urine analysis is sufficient proof that the defendant had previously possessed a controlled substance only if corroborated by evidence of knowing and voluntary possession.

    Discussion.

    Although a person ceases to have dominion and control over the substance when the substance is ingested, the presence of the illegal substance in the body constitutes circumstantial evidence of prior possession of that substance.  Nevertheless, the State must still prove that the defendant knowingly and voluntarily had possession. Here, R.L.H.’s prior admission of using methamphetamine provided direct evidence of her possession of methamphetamine, and the jury could conclude that she violated her probation by using methamphetamine. However, the State did not provide any corroborating evidence to support the urinalysis for marijuana or opiates. Therefore, the court dismissed the charges for possessing marijuana and opiates.



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