Arcane v. People

825 Fic. 3d 777 [ Fictitious case citation]

Monk, Associate Justice

The sole issue on this appeal is whether the evidence at trial was sufficient to support appellant Maud Arcane’s conviction for possession or control of a narcotic drug or controlled substance (marijuana) within F.R.S. ยง 18-2-104. We find insufficient evidence upon which the trier of fact could determine beyond a reasonable doubt that appellant was guilty of the charged offense, and we therefore reverse.

Viewing the evidence at trial in the light most favorable to the People, the facts in this case are as follows:

Appellant was arrested at the Blue Spruce Motel in Dusty Cow Town and charged with violating the narcotics statute. Appellant was traveling through D.C. T. and decided to stop and call some friends she knew. Her two friends came to the Blue Spruce Motel, where appellant had rented a room. Appellant fell asleep while her two friends, watched television. They also amused themselves by smoking an amount of marijuana with a few beers that they had brought with them.

After having seen appellant’s friends walking across the parking lot several times to a car, from the car, and back to the room, the motel manager called the local police. Early in the morning, the police entered appellant’s room, where they found four marijuana cigarettes, eight marijuana cigarette butts, and a water pipe. The police searched the car driven by Appellant’s friend and found three plastic bags of what apparently was marijuana. The police arrested the three women and charged each under the above referenced statute. Appellant contended that she did not violate the law, although she admitted knowing that her friends brought marijuana into the motel room. Appellant was convicted by a jury and she appealed.

The critical portion of the statute, Section 18-22-104, provides:

“[A]ny person who shall knowingly possess or have under his or her control any narcotic drug, shall be guilty of a felony.

a) the term narcotic drug for purposes of this section includes.marijuana..

b) the term possess for the purposes of this section means to hold physically or to carry on one’s person..

c) the term control means the ability to exercise dominion over a narcotic drug..”

There is no evidence in this case that suggests that appellant knowingly possessed narcotic drugs. Accordingly, this conviction may be affirmed only if there is sufficient evidence that appellant knowingly had narcotic drugs under her control. In Nasdy v. Fremen, in a similar factual circumstance, this court had occasion to interpret the legislature’s definition of control as “the ability to exercise dominion.” In Fremen we stated that the exercise of dominion meant that one had “the power to move, locate, dispose or use the narcotic drug or designate its disposition, movement, location or usage,” 725 Fic.2d 1297, 1300 (1979).

It is not a crime under the language of the statute to be in control of a room where marijuana is found. In this case, there was no evidence that appellant ever transported the marijuana into the room, handled it, used it, or directed others to transport, handle, or use it. Nor is there any evidence that appellant, because she rented the room had any special power over the disposition, location or usage of the marijuana. It is, therefore, not reasonable to infer from the appellant’s control of the room that she rather than one of the other people in the room, was in “control” of the marijuana in the room.

The legislature made control of the marijuana a crime. It is not a crime for one in control of a motel room to invite guests possessing marijuana into a room or fail to evict guests who smoke marijuana. The legislature has not yet made a citizen responsible for the indulgence of others in his presence. Accordingly, the judgment of conviction in this case is reversed. The matter is remanded to the trial court for proceedings consistent with this decision.