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Iowa v. Henderson

    Brief Fact Summary.

    The deputy arrived at Defendant’s residence to execute a writ of removal. While removing Defendant’s property, the deputy found contraband. Defendant was arrested and convicted of possession of marijuana and possession of methamphetamine. Defendant appealed alleging the State failed to prove she had dominion and control over the contraband.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    To determine whether the defendant had dominion and control over the contraband in the defendant’s residence, the State must consider the totality of the circumstances, not solely the fact that the defendant lived there.

    Facts.

    Deputy Robert Aspleaf of Woodbury County served a writ of removal and possession at Argilee Henderson’s apartment, Defendant.  Aspleaf was required to remove the defendant and her possessions from the apartment, as well as to place the landlord in possession of the premises.  When Aspleaf arrived at the residence, he brought the landlord and three helpers. Aspleaf knocked on the door, however, no one answered. The landlord attempted to open the door with the master key, however, it did not work because the door was locked from the inside. After, a helper kicked the door open, which revealed that Defendant was standing on the other side of the door.  Defendant protested. Nevertheless, the landlord and the helpers began to pack up Defendant’s belongings.  Aspleaf tried to calm Defendant down, but she escalated the situation by pushing on of the helpers who was packing her electronic components. When Defendant was informed that she was under arrest, Defendant retreated to the only bedroom in the apartment and slammed the door. Aspleaf followed her and placed Defendant under arrest for interference with official acts.  Aspleaf found contraband, including marijuana, methamphetamine, a “pot pipe†with pieces of a blunt, a homemade pipe.  Aspleaf testified at Defendant’s trial that another woman, Lisa Williams, was present during the execution of the writ. Aspleaf stated that Williams was cooperative the entire time, and Williams told him that she had only been staying at the apartment for a few days and the drugs were not hers. Additionally, Aspleaf testified that both Williams and Defendant had prior marijuana convictions.

    Issue.

    Whether Defendant had dominion and control over the contraband the deputy found at her residence when another individual was also present and the deputy never found contraband on Defendant’s person.

    Held.

    Yes, based on the totality of the circumstances, the found that Defendant had constructive possession over the contraband.

    Discussion.

    The State must prove that the defendant “(1) exercised dominion and control over the contraband, (2) had knowledge of its presence, and (3) had knowledge that it was a controlled substance.†State v. Bash, 670 N.W. 2d 135, 137 (Iowa 2003).  Defendant claims that the State failed to prove that Defendant had dominion and control over the marijuana and methamphetamine. The State asserts that Defendant had constructive possession over the contraband. Here, the apartment belonged solely to Defendant and Williams, who each had a very different reaction to the presence of the deputy.  Defendant swore the deputy, insisted that she would remove her own belongings, yelled, and physically interfered with their efforts to pack her property. Nevertheless, Williams cooperated with the helpers and even carried some of Defendant’s belongings to Defendant’s car. The court found that Defendant’s conduct implied guilty knowledge and William’s did not.  Therefore, based on a totality of the circumstances, the facts indicate that Defendant had dominion and control over the contraband.



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