State v. Bailey, 233 N.C. App. 688 (May. 6, 2014)

In a possession of a firearm by a felon case, the State failed to produce sufficient evidence that the defendant had constructive possession of the rifle. The rifle, which was registered to the defendant’s girlfriend was found in a car registered to the defendant but driven by the girlfriend. The defendant was a passenger in the car at the time. The rifle was found in a place where both the girlfriend and the defendant had equal access. There was no physical evidence tying the defendant to the rifle; his fingerprints were not found on the rifle, the magazine, or the spent casing. Although the gun was warm and appeared to have been recently fired, there was no evidence that the defendant had discharged the rifle because the gunshot residue test was inconclusive. Although the defendant admitted to an officer that he knew that the rifle was in the car, awareness of the weapon is not enough to establish constructive possession. In sum, the court concluded, the only evidence linking the defendant to the rifle was his presence in the vehicle and his knowledge that the gun was in the backseat.