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Criminal – Search & Seizure – Traffic Stop – Cocaine – Intent To Distribute – Sufficiency

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//January 1, 1993

Criminal – Search & Seizure – Traffic Stop – Cocaine – Intent To Distribute – Sufficiency

Virginia Lawyers Weekly//January 1, 1993//

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Where the police officer initially pulled defendant over for exceeding the speed limit by 13 mph, and upon running a license check after defendant failed to produce a valid driver’s license or other identification, the officer discovered that the license for the name given had been suspended, the officer had probable cause to conclude that defendant was driving in violation of Code § 46.2-301, and he was entitled to make a warrantless arrest and to search defendant.

Although defendant argues that the officer never intended to arrest him for driving on a suspended license–as shown by the fact that the officer later arrested him only for cocaine possession and issued him a summons for the driving offense–the evidence, when viewed in the light most favorable to the commonwealth, contradicts this assertion.

The officer testified that he planned to take defendant to the station in order to substantiate his identity and defendant testified that the officer handcuffed him prior to the search. Both of these facts show the officer’s subjective intent to arrest defendant. In spite of this fact, however, the officer’s subjective motivations are not dispositive. In this case, the officer had probable cause to arrest defendant without a warrant prior to conducting the challenged search. The cocaine seized was admissible for that reason, making further analysis unnecessary.

There was sufficient evidence to convict defendant of possession with intent to distribute where the evidence showed that defendant was carrying 57 individual packets of cocaine totalling 1.39 grams, which an investigator testified was inconsistent with personal use. In addition, no other evidence introduced at trial indicated that defendant was a cocaine user. Had defendant purchased the drugs in this fashion, testified the investigator, he would have paid about four times more than if he had purchased them in bulk.

Finally, defendant had $936 in cash in his pocket when arrested. We cannot conclude, based on this evidence, that the trial court erred in finding that defendant acted with an intent to distribute the cocaine in question.

Conviction affirmed.

Benton, J.: I concur in the holding that the trial judge did not err in denying the motion to suppress the cocaine. However, I do not join in the discussion of the sufficiency issue, and I would reverse the conviction because the evidence does not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that defendant possessed the cocaine with the intent to distribute it.

Poindexter v. Commonwealth (Elder) No. 1459-91-2, July 13, 1993; Henrico County Cir.Ct. (Harris) Craig S. Cooley for appellant; Thomas C. Daniel, AAG, for appellee. VLW 093-7-380, 10 pp.

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