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Evidence showed constructive possession

There was sufficient evidence to show that the appellant constructively possessed drugs found in her purse, which was found on the floor of her car.

Appellant Odell appeals her convictions for possessing LSD and possession with intent to distribute. As an initial matter, Odell argues that the trial court erred by denying her motion to strike because the commonwealth did not prove she had the intent to distribute.

Odell did not preserve her argument for appellate review. In the trial court, Odell’s motions to strike focused on whether she possessed the drugs. She did not argue about possession. “Accordingly, Rule 5A:18 bars our consideration of this argument on appeal.”

Constructive possession

“Odell argues that the circuit court erred in denying her motion to strike because the Commonwealth failed to prove that she constructively possessed the drugs found in the purse. Odell contends that the evidence demonstrated only that she was in proximity to the drugs, which is not sufficient to prove constructive possession. …

“Odell occupied the car in which the drugs were found. Odell had been driving the vehicle for five hours that day. The drugs were found in a purse on the floor behind the center console, within reach of Odell in the driver’s seat.

“Although a male passenger was in the vehicle, no other woman entered or exited the vehicle, and nothing connected the male passenger to the purse. …

“The contents connected only Odell to the purse in which the drugs were found; it contained Odell’s Virginia Identification Card and two credit cards with her name on them.”

“We have previously held ‘that cocaine and other drugs are “commodit[ies] of significant value, unlikely to be abandoned or carelessly left in an area.’ …

“Odell’s purse contained a substantial amount of drugs and distribution paraphernalia, and the total value of the cocaine alone was between $700 and $1,000. The factfinder was permitted to infer that another person would not abandon those items in Odell’s purse.

“The combined force of the above circumstances supports the conclusion that Odell constructively possessed the drugs found in her purse. Thus, the evidence was competent, not inherently incredible, and sufficient to sustain Odell’s convictions.

“The circuit court’s judgment is therefore affirmed.”

Odell v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0744-21-4, May 10, 2022. CAV (AtLee) from the Circuit Court of Arlington County (Wheat). Helen Randolph for appellant. Mason D. Williams for appellee. VLW 022-7-128, 7 pp. Unpublished opinion.

VLW 022-7-128

Virginia Lawyers Weekly