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State v. Kimbrell - 294 S.C. 51, 362 S.E.2d 630 (1987)

Rule:

An accused person has possession of contraband when he has both the power and intent to control its disposition or use. Because actual knowledge of the presence of the drug is strong evidence of intent to control its disposition or use, knowledge may be equated with or substituted for the intent element. Possession may be inferred from circumstances.

Facts:

An undercover officer purchased cocaine from Gene Kimbrell, who was a suspected drug dealer and defendant Vicki Kimbrell's ex-husband. Kimbrell did not participate in that sale. Later, based on that transaction, officers obtained a search warrant for Gene's home and planned a "buy-bust" operation for cocaine and marijuana. During that transaction at Gene's home, while Gene and the officer went outside to examine the marijuana, Kimbrell waited in the kitchen near the cocaine at Gene's instruction. When they returned, Kimbrell returned to a bedroom and was found there with a pistol in her purse during the drug bust. Kimbrell was charged with trafficking in cocaine. At trial in South Carolina state court, Kimbrell filed a motion to suppress the pistol on the ground it was not covered by the search warrant for drugs and drug paraphernalia. The trial court denied the motion. The trial court also denied Kimbrell's motion for a directed verdict. A jury found Kimbrell guilty, and she was sentenced to 25 years' imprisonment. Kimbrell appealed, arguing, inter alia, that the State failed to present sufficient evidence of her knowing possession of the cocaine seized and that the pistol should have been suppressed and that it was inadmissible as irrelevant to the issues at trial.

Issue:

Did the State fail to present sufficient evidence of Kimbrell’s knowing possession of the seized cocaine?

Answer:

No.

Conclusion:

The court affirmed the trial court's judgment. As to Kimbrell's motion for a directed verdict and the sufficiency of the evidence on Kimbrell's knowing possession, the court explained that an accused had possession of contraband when he or she had both the power and intent to control its disposition or use. The court held that from the evidence presented, it could be inferred that Kimbrell had both the power and intent to control the cocaine during the time her husband and the officer were outside the home. In addition, the court noted, the State produced evidence that Kimbrell had actual knowledge of the presence of the cocaine. As to the admissibility of the pistol seized by police from Kimbrell's purse, the court held that: (1) the evidence fully supported a seizure under the plain view exception, and; (2) the pistol was relevant evidence of Kimbrell's knowledge and intent as the jury could well have inferred that she was using the pistol for protection of the cocaine.

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