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Regan v. Wyoming

    Brief Fact Summary.

    Regan and his roommate were stopped by an police officer. The police officer detected the smell of marijuana and requested another officer and a drug dog to come to the scene. The drug dog altered that there were drugs on the passenger side of the vehicle. The second officer subsequently searched the interior of the vehicle and found more marijuana, $1,000 cash, and paraphernalia. 

    Synopsis of Rule of Law.

    The mere occupancy of a defendant in a vehicle is not sufficient evidence for the State to prove that the defendant possessed the controlled substance.

    Facts.

    Regan, Defendant, and his roommate, Shayne Trujillo, were pulled over by Officer Troy Cyr because the stopped at a yield sign when there was no traffic and the officer could not see if the vehicle had a rear license plate. Defendant was the driver and owner of the vehicle. The officer immediately smelled marijuana when he approached the vehicle, therefore, he requested a drug dog to be dispatched. Subsequently, Officer Vos arrived with the drug dog, both who detected the smell of marijuana. The dog altered at the front passenger door. Officer Vos told Trujillo to get out of the car, searched the vehicle, and found two glass jars with marijuana on the floorboard. Officer Vos further inspected the interior of the vehicle and found a plastic grocery bag, a large white plastic bag, and a Ziploc sandwich bag with marijuana totaling a weight of approximately one and a half pounds of marijuana in the vehicle. Lastly, the officer found $1,000 cash in the glove box and paraphernalia, commonly associated with the sale of marijuana. Defendant voluntarily stated that he saw Trujillo bring the marijuana into the vehicle, however, he rejected any involvement in Trujillo’s schemes because “it wasn’t worth the risk.†Likewise, Trujilo directed Defendant on where to go for each stop, and solely Trujillo would get out of the car to deliver the marijuana. Trujillo corroborated Defendants testimony. The jury found Defendant guilty of felony possession of marijuana.

    Issue.

    Whether the State proved that Defendant had the requisite dominion and control of the marijuana to support a conviction of felony possession of marijuana.

    Held.

    No, the State failed to prove that Defendant had the intention to control the substance, the second element to constitute the requisite dominion and control of the marijuana.

    Discussion.

    Under Wyoming Statute Annotated § 35-1031 (c)(iii) it is a felony “for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess [more than three ounces of] a controlled substance [in plant form].†Defendant claims that the State failed to prove that he “possessed†the requisite amount of marijuana to support his conviction. Moreover, contrastive possession has been defined as “[a] person who, although is not in actual possession, knowingly has both the power and intention, at a given time, to exercise dominion or control over a thing either directly or through another person or persons, is in constructive possession of it.â€Â  Thus, the State must prove both power and the intention to control the substance. Here, the State weighs heavily on the fact that the Defendant actually owned the vehicle he was driving, which contained the marijuana, and Defendant was aware of the presence of marijuana in the vehicle. Nevertheless, the court found that this alone does not indicate that Defendant had possession of the controlled substance. Trujillo was instructing the Defendant on where to stop to deliver the marijuana, and Trujillo, not the Defendant, would complete the actual delivery of the marijuana. Thus, Defendant never had possession, and mere presence in a vehicle with the marijuana is not sufficient to constitute possession.


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