Appeals court upholds man’s cocaine possession conviction

A Utah court recently upheld a Salt Lake City man’s cocaine possession conviction on a constructive possession theory. The man’s case shows that you can be convicted for cocaine possession even when authorities do not find any drugs on your person. Constructive possession cases are highly fact-specific and often fall on the strength of the government’s witnesses and the skill of a criminal defense attorney.

The Salt Lake City man was arrested by bicycle officers in Pioneer Park. The officers were going to cite the man for smoking in the park and then noticed that the man had a bike similar to one reported as stolen. When the officers asked to look at the bike, the man gave them permission to do so. The officers then indicated that they would check a hidden compartment in the bike, and the man quickly denied that the bicycle was his.

Officers found several rocks of crack cocaine in the bicycle and arrested the man for drug possession and intent to distribute.

Unfortunately the man’s legal arguments at trial were insufficient to overcome the evidence presented by the bicycle cops. During the trial the man did not argue that he had found or stolen the bike, unaware of the crack within it. The man instead argued that he had not possessed the bike at all, which is inconsistent with the testimony of the officers.

In this case, it is quite possible that the man could have avoided his drug possession charges if he had given less information to the police officers. This is a situation in which giving less information to police would have been better than volunteering untrue or inconsistent information which could be used against you later.

Source: Utah v. Cardona-Gueton, 291 P.3d 847, Dec. 6, 2012

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