Fort Wayne Possession of Cocaine Conviction Reversed
The Indiana Court of Appeals has reversed a Fort Wayne man’s conviction for Possession of Cocaine. Allen County officers went to a residence in Fort Wayne to serve the defendant with a warrant on a failure to appear for misdemeanor possession of marijuana charges. When the police arrived, the defendant walked out the door, made eye-contact, and then went back into the apartment locking the doors behind him. The police yelled and kicked on the door until one of the residents opened the door.
Initially the defendant was upstairs, but came downstairs when the police shouted his name. The defendant’s cousin and her children followed him down the stairs. The police handcuffed the defendant and conducted a protective sweep of the apartment. In the upstairs bathroom, the police found a plastic bag of cocaine (.45 grams) in an open toilet and a second bag of cocaine (1.14 grams) on top of the trash can. After finding the cocaine, the cousin consented to a search of the entire apartment. While searching the children’s bedroom, the police found plastic baggies, plates, and a scale containing cocaine residue, and a court document relating to the defendant’s possession of marijuana charges. The defendant usually stayed overnight in the children’s bedroom, but he did not live there and his cousin was the named tenant on the lease.
Prior to trial, the defendant moved to suppress the evidence obtained during the protective sweep and consent search. The court denied his motion finding that he lacked standing to challenge the search of his cousin’s home. At trial, all of the evidence was admitted over the defendant’s objections. A jury found the defendant guilty of Resisting Law Enforcement, a Class A Misdemeanor; and Possession of Cocaine, a Class D Felony. The defendant appealed his conviction for Possession of Cocaine arguing there was insufficient evidence to establish that he had actual or constructive possession of the cocaine.
The Indiana Court of Appeals, in an unpublished opinion, reversed the defendant’s conviction and vacated his two year jail sentence. The Court declared there was insufficient evidence connecting the defendant to the cocaine in the bathroom because he was not paying rent and his name was not on the lease. Also, the cousin and her children were the last people upstairs and there was no evidence showing the defendant was recently in the bathroom where the cocaine was found. Finally, an inference of guilt based on the defendant’s attempted flight from the police could have been attributed to his warrant on the pending marijuana charges. Thus, the Court held the evidence was insufficient to support the defendant’s conviction for Possession of Cocaine.
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