State v. Quinones, ___ N.C. App. ___, 811 S.E.2d 734 (Mar. 20, 2018)

In this possession of a stolen motor vehicle case, the trial court’s jury instruction did not contain an incorrect statement of law regarding the element of possession. The evidence tended to show that an officer saw an individual driving a vehicle that was reported stolen. After an accident, the officer saw an individual wearing a white T-shirt flee from the vehicle’s driver side. An officer at the scene observed that only the driver’s door had been left open. Officers maintained almost constant visual contact with the defendant as he fled. The defendant was apprehended shortly afterwards wearing a white T-shirt. Instructing the jury on possession, the trial court stated that a person has actual possession of a vehicle if the person is aware of its presence, is in the car, such as driving, and has both the power intent to control its disposition or use. The court held that the instruction provided an accurate statement of law arising from the evidence presented and that the defendant’s argument that the instruction shifted the burden of proof to the defendant was without merit. The evidence was sufficient for the jury to infer that the defendant operated the stolen vehicle and was not merely a passenger.