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Oregon v. Fries

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Thomas Fries, Defendant, was assisting his friend Albritton move into his new home with his marijuana plants. Albritton had a medical marijuana card. While Defendant was driving, an officer pulled them over and arrested Defendant for possessing marijuana.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    To constitute physical possession, the State must prove that the Defendant has physical control.

    Facts.

    Defendant was assisting his friend Albritton to move into his new home with his marijuana plants. Because Albritton had a medical marijuana card, Defendant understood that Albritton had lawful possession of the marijuana plants. Defendant loaded the marijuana plants into his Jeep and began to drive to Albritton’s new home. While driving, a police car began to follow them. Subsequently, Defendant drove into a driveway, and the officer drove past them. Later, the officer observed Defendant on another street in which Defendant again pulled into a drive away. The officer approached them and asked why “they were being so evasive tonight.†Defendant replied, “[w]e didn’t want to get stopped and have to answer any questions about the marijuana.†Thereafter, the officer arrested Defendant and Albritton. Defendant was charged with possessing marijuana. At trial, Defendant asserted that there was no evidence in which a reasonable jury could conclude that Defendant possessed the marijuana plants. The trial court denied the Defendants motion for judgment of acquittal, and the jury found Defendant guilty.

    Issue.

    Whether the State offered sufficient evidence that a reasonable jury could conclude that Defendant possessed the marijuana plants.

    Held.

    Whether the State offered sufficient evidence that a reasonable jury could conclude that Defendant possessed the marijuana plants.

    Discussion.

    ORS 475.840(3) states that it is unlawful for “any person knowingly . . . to posses a controlled substance.†Further, ORS 161.015(9) to possess something means “to have physical possession or otherwise dominion or control over the property.†Here, the court found that Defendant had actual possession over the marijuana plants. The dictionary definition of actual possession does not require ownership of the object. Nevertheless, Defendant argues that under the definition of constructive possession if one holds the property of another under the latters direction, the former does not actually posses it. ORS 161.015(9).  However, the court states that the Defendant’s interpretation of constructive possession is incorrect because it does not necessarily mean that he or she does not actually posses it when one holds the property of another at the latters direction.  The legislature specifically addressed the concept of common carriers and agents under ORS 475.125(3)(a), and therefore, ORS 161.015(9) is not applicable in this case. Overall, the court concluded that they statutory phrase, “to have physical possession,†means that one has physical control.  Therefore, here, Defendant had physical control over the marijuana plants because he carried the plants from Albritton’s apartment, brought them into his car, and drove for several minutes.



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