State v. Wilson, ___ N.C. App. ___, ___ S.E.2d ___ (Feb. 4, 2020)

The defendant was convicted of possession with intent to sell or deliver cocaine (PWISD-Cocaine), felony possession of cocaine and attaining habitual felon status. He argued on appeal that State failed to offer sufficient evidence of an intent to sell or deliver cocaine. The Court of Appeals rejected that argument, determining that there was sufficient evidence to support submission of the PWISD-Cocaine charge to the jury.

The State’s evidence showed that the defendant possessed cocaine contained in two packages: a corner bag containing .34 grams and a package containing 11.19 grams. Though this amount is less than half the amount that would support a trafficking charge and less than what courts have previously recognized as a substantial amount, the Court of Appeals reasoned that the amount was not insubstantial and that it well exceeded amounts previously deemed to support a PWISD-Cocaine conviction. Thus, the court deemed evidence that the defendant possessed more than 11 grams of cocaine an important circumstance. Moreover, the court stated that evidence of the packaging (one small corner bag indicative of personal use and a larger package containing the bulk of the cocaine) supported an inference of intent to sell or deliver. The defendant’s actions at the time he possessed the cocaine further supported an inference of an intent to sell and distribute. The defendant was driving (and thus transporting the cocaine) to his brother’s apartment complex when a law enforcement officer signaled for him to stop. The defendant did not immediately stop. Instead, he accelerated away from the officer, only stopping once he reached the apartment complex. Once there, the defendant got out of his car, refused to comply with the officer’s directions, and ducked behind a parked car where the larger bag of cocaine was later found. The court stated that this supported an inference that the defendant attempted to hide the larger amount of cocaine while leaving the smaller corner bag—associated with only personal use—in plain view.

The court acknowledged that there was no evidence of cash, paraphernalia or other tools of the drug trade. Nevertheless, it viewed the amount of cocaine, the packaging, and the defendant’s evasive behavior to be enough to establish, “at a minimum, a borderline case to support submission of the PWISD-Cocaine charge to the jury.”