State v. Bradley, 282 N.C. App. 292 (Mar. 15, 2022)

aff’d per curiam, 105A22, ___ N.C. ___ (Jun. 16, 2023)

The trial court did not err by revoking the defendant’s probation where there was substantial evidence that he committed the criminal offense of possessing controlled substances but insufficient evidence of maintaining a vehicle for sale of controlled substances.  There was competent evidence to support the trial court’s finding that the defendant committed simple possession of schedule II and IV controlled substances where officers conducting a traffic stop for reckless driving discovered Oxycodone, Xanax, and Clonazepam in a pill bottle in the glove compartment in front of the passenger seat where the defendant was sitting.  Analyzing the issue of whether the defendant had constructive possession of the drugs and finding that he did, a majority of the court emphasized the defendant’s close proximity to the glove compartment and pill bottle, his behavior suggesting his fear that the drugs would be discovered, and his exhibition of obvious signs of impairment that caused officers to call for EMS to check whether he should be taken to the hospital.  The majority went on to find that there was insufficient evidence that the defendant committed the offense of maintaining a vehicle for the sale of controlled substances, but that the trial court’s error in revoking defendant’s probation on the basis of this offense was not prejudicial given the proper revocation based upon the possession offense.

Judge Hampson dissented and expressed the view that there was insufficient evidence of the defendant’s constructive possession of the drugs in the glovebox.  Judge Hampson explained that the defendant’s behavior arguably evincing fear did not clearly indicate he was aware of the drugs, and further explained that it was not clear that his impairment was specifically related to the drugs.