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State v. Faler

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Southern District, First Division

January 29, 2018

STATE OF MISSOURI, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
TONY L. FALER Defendant-Appellant.

         APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF LAWRENCE COUNTY Honorable Jack A. L. Goodman.

          OPINION

          GARY W. LYNCH, J.

         Following a bench trial, Tony L. Faler ("Defendant"), was found guilty of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. See sections 195.202 and 195.233, respectively.[1] On appeal, Defendant argues "that the trial court could not reasonably infer that [Defendant] knew about the methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia[.]" Because Defendant's point has no merit, his conviction is affirmed.

         Standard of Review

In reviewing a claim that there was not sufficient evidence to sustain a criminal conviction, this Court does not weigh the evidence but, rather, accept[s] as true all evidence tending to prove guilt together with all reasonable inferences that support the verdict, and ignore[s] all contrary evidence and inferences. This Court asks only whether there was sufficient evidence from which the trier of fact reasonably could have found the defendant guilty.

State v. Claycomb, 470 S.W.3d 358, 362 (Mo. banc 2015) (quotation marks and citations omitted).

         Factual and Procedural Background

         Defendant and Elaine Faler ("Wife") rented a storage unit on February 11, 2014. Eric Gottfried, a deputy with the Cole County Sheriff's Department and member of the COMET Drug Task Force, received and executed a search warrant for the storage unit on March 12, 2014. When Deputy Gottfried arrived at the storage unit, he found the entry door was locked, and he used bolt cutters to cut the lock. Inside a drawer of a dresser located immediately inside the door to the storage unit, Deputy Gottfried found drug paraphernalia, baggies with drug residue, and marijuana stems and seeds. Underneath the baggies, Deputy Gottfried found a legal document directed to Defendant by name. Next to the paraphernalia and drugs, Deputy Gottfried found an envelope addressed to Defendant. Deputy Gottfried "could smell the odor of burnt marijuana" and "knew marijuana had been used in the region of that storage recently." The residue in one of the baggies later tested positive as methamphetamine.

         Defendant was charged with and found guilty of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. The court sentenced him to seven years' imprisonment in the Department of Corrections for possession of a controlled substance but suspended execution of that sentence and ordered Defendant placed on probation. The court also sentenced Defendant to 180 days in jail for possession of drug paraphernalia but suspended execution of that sentence as well and placed Defendant on probation. Defendant timely appeals.

         Discussion

         Defendant's sole point relied on states:

The trial court erred in overruling [Defendant's] motion for judgment of acquittal and sentencing him upon his conviction for possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia with intent to use, because this violated his right to due process of law guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution, and article I, section 10 of the Missouri Constitution, in that the trial court could not reasonably infer that [Defendant] knew about the methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia in the closed dresser drawer because the dresser was found in a storage locker rented by both [Defendant] and his wife, both [Defendant's] and his wife's personal items were found in the dresser in proximity to the drugs, only a few of [Defendant's] personal items were found in the dresser and the state's evidence showed that the items in the storage locker had been packed for moving and shifted from their original location.

Section 195.202 makes it "unlawful for any person to possess or have under his control a controlled substance." Section195.233.1 makes it "unlawful for any person to use, or to possess with intent to use, drug paraphernalia[.]" "[P]ossessed" or "possessing a controlled substance" is defined as:

[A] person, with the knowledge of the presence and nature of a substance, has actual or constructive possession of the substance. A person has actual possession if he has the substance on his person or within easy reach and convenient control. A person who, although not in actual possession, has the power and the intention at a given time to exercise dominion or control over the substance either directly or through another person or persons is in constructive possession of it. Possession may also be sole or joint. If one person ...

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