Friday, June 16, 2017
Small Amount of Drugs in Man’s Possession Rebuts Notion He Intended to Sell—C.A.
Dissenter Says Majority Is Second-Guessing the Jury
By a MetNews Staff Writer
The Court of Appeal has reversed the conviction of a man for possessing methamphetamine for the purpose of sale, saying that no appellate court opinion has ever upheld such a conviction where the defendant had so small an amount of the drug.
The majority, in an unpublished opinion by Justice David A. Thompson of the Fourth District’s Div. Three, said that defendant Ernando Alcantar was convicted “based solely on possession of a small quantity consistent with two or three days of personal use.”
Dissenting, Acting Presiding Justice Richard M. Aronson said the majority was usurping the jury’s function by reweighing the evidence.
Alcantar was arrested around 1 a.m. by Anaheim Police Officer Daniel Heffner who spotted him sitting with a female in the darkened stairway of a building. He was found to be in possession of five bindles of methamphetamine.
Heffner testified that the fact the bindles were of similar weight led him to conclude they were intended for sale. Thompson remarked:
“But this fact alone has little weight because users may buy drugs in multiple bindles.”
Thompson went on to say that the “quantity and value of the drugs” do not support Heffner’s view that Alcantar possessed them for the purpose of sale. He explained:
“By Heffner’s own testimony, a user might use as much as a gram a day. Thus the quantity Alcantar possessed, either 1.6 or 2.5 grams, would have been at most a two or three-day personal use supply. And, while Heffner opined it could have been worth as much as $250, it could also have been worth as little as $25, depending on the quality.”
Aronson countered that the fact users might buy drugs in packages of roughly equal weight “hardly proves as a matter of law that Alcantar held the methamphetamine for his personal use,” commenting:
“Indeed, based on Heffner’s expert opinion and the surrounding circumstances, the jury reasonably could conclude Alcantar was a small-time dealer who was about to sell his prepackaged bindles to his female companion. The majority simply reweighs the evidence to conclude Heffner’s opinion is entitled to ‘little weight.’
“The majority also rejects Heffner’s testimony the five bindles Alcantar possessed may have been worth $250.00. The majority reweighs the evidence in rejecting Heffner’s testimony by finding ‘it could also have been worth as little as $25, depending on the quality.’…This interpretation of the evidence is not compelled, however. The majority simply is second-guessing the jury’s contrary conclusion.”
The case is People v. Alcantar, G053247.
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