State v. Slaughter, 365 N.C. 321 (Dec. 9, 2011)

For the reasons stated in the dissenting opinion below, the court reversed a decision by the court of appeals in State v. Slaughter, 212 N.C. App. 59 (May 17, 2011). The court of appeals had held, over a dissent, that there was sufficient evidence of constructive possession of marijuana. The dissenting judge had noted that the evidence showed only that the defendant and two others were detained by a tactical team and placed on the floor of a 10-by-15 foot bedroom in the back of the mobile home, which had a pervasive odor of marijuana; inside the bedroom, police found, in plain view, numerous bags containing marijuana, approximately $38,000 in cash, several firearms, a grinder, and a digital scale; stacks of $20 and $100 bills, plastic sandwich baggies, and marijuana residue were found in the bathroom adjoining the bedroom. The dissenter noted that there was no evidence of the defendant's proximity to the contraband prior to being placed on the floor, after being placed on the floor, or relative to the other detained individuals. Having concluded that the evidence was insufficient as to proximity, the dissenting judge argued that mere presence in a room where contraband is located does not itself support an inference of constructive possession. The dissenting judge further concluded that the fact that the contraband was in plain view did not “take this case out of the realm of conjecture.” He asserted: “The contraband being in plain view suggests that defendant knew of its presence, but there is no evidence — and the majority points to none — indicating that defendant had the intent and capability to maintain control and dominion over it.” (quotation omitted). 

There was dissenting opinion in this case.