United States v. Shabazz

993 F.2d 431 (5th Cir. 1993)

 

RULE:

An officer conducting a routine traffic stop may request a driver's license and vehicle registration, run a computer check, and issue a citation. When the driver has produced a valid license and proof that he is entitled to operate the car, he must be allowed to proceed on his way, without being subject to further delay by police for additional questioning. In order to justify a temporary detention for questioning, the officer must also have reasonable suspicion of illegal transactions in drugs or of any other serious crime. 

FACTS:

Appellants were convicted on drug possession charges. Appellants challenged their convictions, arguing that the evidence discovered in a warrantless search of the car in which they were travelling should have been suppressed, that the trial court should have given a "mere presence" jury instruction, and that the evidence was insufficient to support their convictions. On appeal, the court affirmed.  The district court's instructions to the jury as to possession were sufficient to prevent a conviction based upon mere presence, and it was not error to refuse the "mere presence" instruction. The evidence was sufficient to show that appellants knowingly possessed the drugs.

ISSUE:

Did the trial court err by failing to give the jury a "mere presence" instruction and was evidence insufficient to prove that appellants knowingly possessed the cocaine?

ANSWER:

No.

CONCLUSION:

No reversible error is presented. First, it is well-established that the refusal to submit a requested jury instruction is not reversible error if the instruction was substantially covered in the charge as given. In this case, the trial court's instructions to the jury as to possession were sufficient to prevent a conviction (or a finding of possession) based upon mere presence. Therefore appellants' mere presence instruction was substantially reflected in the charge as given. Thus, the court affirmed the judgments convicting appellants on drug possession charges. The warrantless search of the car in which appellants were travelling was valid, the instructions to the jury as to possession were sufficient to prevent a conviction based upon mere presence, and there was sufficient evidence to support the jury's conclusion that appellants knowingly possessed the drugs found in the car.

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