People v. Tates, 2016 IL App (1st) 140619 (August). Episode 230 (Duration 5:59)
Drug conviction reversed because defendant can’t be sufficiently tied to the contraband.
This is a search warrant case.
The name on the warrant was not defendant. When the police get in defendant is found in the dining room which had a table filled with drugs and packing material.
A codefendant was seated at the table but not defendant.
Various drugs and over 220 grams of heroin, 130 grams of cocaine, 2,070 grams of cannabis, and five tenths of a gram of methamphetamine were recovered throughout the house.
The codefendant accepted ownership and responsibility for all the drugs.
No indicia of residency was recovered and no fingerprints from the bags were obtained.
To support a conviction for possession of a controlled substance, the State must prove that the defendant had knowledge of the presence of the narcotics and that the narcotics were in the defendant’s immediate and exclusive control.
Possession can be either actual or constructive.
● Constructive possession does not require actual present dominion over the substance, but can be inferred through an “intent and capability to maintain control and dominion.”
● A defendant’s lack of control of the premises will not preclude a finding of guilt if the circumstantial evidence supports an inference that the defendant intended to control the contraband inside.
● Mere presence at the scene, even coupled with flight, is not enough to satisfy the State’s burden of proof.
It is defendant’s relationship to the contraband that must be examined.
Where there is no evidence that the defendant controls the premises, proof of mere presence, even combined with defendant’s knowledge of the presence of narcotics, will not support a finding of constructive possession unless there is other circumstantial evidence of defendant’s control over the contraband.
First, in this case there is no evidence that defendant exercised control over the premises such that a trier of fact could reasonably infer his knowledge and control over the narcotics located there.
No evidence establishes that police observed him touching or otherwise handling the cannabis or other materials on and around the dining room table.
Proving that defendant must have been aware of the drugs does nothing to support the inference that defendant was constructively in possession of the drugs.
Thus, at most, the State established his presence in the residence and his awareness of the presence of cannabis in the dining room. This is insufficient to prove his constructive possession of that contraband.
Nothing in the record establishes any connection whatsoever between defendant and the heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines recovered from other rooms in the apartment.
Conviction was reversed outright. No evidence in the record satisfied the State’s burden to show defendant’s immediate and exclusive control over the narcotics.
The evidence and reasonable inferences that can be drawn therefrom do not support the jury’s verdicts on the narcotics charges as there is no evidence—even circumstantial—that Tates was aware of the narcotics hidden in the water cooler and refrigerator and no evidence, other than (i) his presence in the dining room where cannabis was in plain view and (ii) his flight from police, to demonstrate his constructive possession of that contraband.