Return to
Return to the Opinions Page
An unpublished opinion of the North Carolina Court of Appeals does not constitute controlling legal authority. Citation is disfavored, but may be permitted in accordance with the provisions of Rule 30(e)(3) of the North Carolina Rules of Appellate Procedure.

NO. COA06-1521


Filed: 3 July 2007


         v.                        Davidson County
                                Nos. 04 CRS 59353
MARY HELEN STAGNER                        04 CRS 59355

    Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 7 June 2006 by Judge Christopher M. Collier in Davidson County Superior Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 11 June 2007.

    Attorney General Roy Cooper, by Special Deputy Attorney General Kathryn Jones Cooper, for the State.

    Stubbs, Cole, Breedlove, Prentis & Biggs, PLLC, by C. Scott Holmes, for defendant-appellant.

    MARTIN, Chief Judge.

     Defendant was found guilty by a jury of trafficking in cocaine by possession and by transportation. She appeals from the judgment entered upon the jury verdicts.
    The State presented evidence tending to show that on 2 September 2004, the Thomasville Police Department (“TPD”) received an anonymous tip concerning suspected drug activity at 127 Albertson Road. Detective Dustin Carter, Officer Steven Truell and Lieutenant Darren Lloyd Smith of the TPD went to a residence at that address but found nobody there. The officers set up surveillance of the residence. They subsequently observed a green Grand Am automobile arrive at the residence. The officers moved their vehicles to the driveway of the residence. The officersobserved defendant exit from the passenger side of the Grand Am. Defendant walked toward Lt. Smith. Lt. Smith showed defendant his badge and asked her whether she resided there. When she responded affirmatively, he informed her about the complaint the TPD had received. Meanwhile, the green Grand Am had turned around and was “easing up” the driveway. Defendant directed Lt. Smith to wait. Defendant approached the automobile and deposited a black purse in the passenger seat of the vehicle. The vehicle then departed and defendant resumed conversing with Lt. Smith. Defendant explained to Lt. Smith that she gave the driver the purse so the driver could purchase some food.
    Thinking it was suspicious that defendant gave her friend the entire purse as the vehicle was leaving, Lt. Smith directed the other officers to follow the green Grand Am automobile. After following it a short distance, the officers conducted a traffic stop of the vehicle when the vehicle failed to stop for a stop sign. The driver, identified as Barbara Wilson, was the sole occupant of the vehicle. Ms. Wilson consented to a search of the vehicle. The officers found two pocketbooks, a brown purse Ms. Wilson claimed and a black purse. The officers looked inside the black purse and found a brown paper bag containing a large rock- like substance, suspected of being crack cocaine. Subsequent chemical analysis of the substance in the paper bag revealed it to be 84.1 grams of crack cocaine.
    Defendant testified that she did not know that the purse contained cocaine.     Defendant contends the court erred by denying her motion to dismiss at the close of all the evidence. Upon a motion to dismiss , the court determines whether there is substantial evidence to establish each element of the offense charged and to identify the defendant as the perpetrator. State v. Earnhardt, 307 N.C. 62, 65-66, 296 S.E.2d 649, 651 (1982). “Substantial evidence is such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.” State v. Smith, 300 N.C. 71, 78, 265 S.E.2d 164, 169 (1980). In making this determination, the court must examine the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, giving the State the benefit of every reasonable inference that may be deduced from the evidence and leaving contradictions or discrepancies in the evidence for the jury to resolve. State v. Benson, 331 N.C. 537, 544, 417 S.E.2d 756, 761 (1992).
    A person who possesses or transports more than 28 grams but less than 200 grams of cocaine is guilty of the Class G felony of trafficking in cocaine. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-95(h)(3)(a) (2005). Defendant contends that the State failed to present sufficient evidence to establish that she possessed and transported the cocaine found in the black purse.
    To convict a person of trafficking in cocaine by possession, the State must prove the accused either had actual or constructive possession of the requisite quantity of cocaine. State v. Wilder, 124 N.C. App. 136, 139, 476 S.E.2d 394, 397 (1996). “An accused's possession of narcotics may be actual or constructive. He has possession of the contraband material within the meaning of the lawwhen he has both the power and intent to control its disposition or use.” State v. Harvey, 281 N.C. 1, 12, 187 S.E.2d 706, 714 (1972).
The discovery of narcotics on premises under the exclusive control of the accused is ordinarily sufficient alone to take a case to the jury on a charge of unlawful possession but when the possession of the premises is nonexclusive, “constructive possession of the contraband materials may not be inferred without other incriminating circumstances.” State v. Brown, 310 N.C. 563, 569, 313 S.E.2d 585, 588-89 (1984).
    Here, the evidence shows that upon Lt. Smith's telling defendant that the officers were there to investigate a complaint of illegal drug activity at the premises, defendant intercepted the departing vehicle and tossed her entire purse, not just a billfold, wallet or money, into the vehicle. Lt. Smith described defendant's demeanor as nervous. After being informed of the stopping of the vehicle and the discovery of the drug in the purse, defendant admitted that drugs may have been in the bag. Defendant further acknowledged that the seized bag belonged to her as she sought the return of personal and identification items contained therein, such as a ring, her social security card and her birth certificate. Based upon the foregoing evidence, we hold a jury could find defendant guilty of trafficking in cocaine by possession.
    Transportation of a controlled substance within the meaning of N.C.G.S. § 90-95(h) is defined as “'any real carrying about or movement from one place to another.'” State v. Outlaw, 96 N.C.App. 192, 197, 385 S.E.2d 165, 168 (1989), disc. review denied, 326 N.C. 266, 389 S.E.2d 118 (1990) (quoting Cunard Steamship Company v. Mellon, 262 U.S. 100, 122, 67 L. Ed. 894, 901 (1922)). In Outlaw we held that the placement of contraband in a motor vehicle that moves merely a few feet in a driveway constitutes a sufficient movement from one place to another to constitute transportation and to support a conviction of trafficking by transportation.
    Here, defendant placed the purse containing the contraband in a vehicle that not only traversed the driveway but traveled for a distance on a public street or highway. Moreover, defendant arrived in the green Grand Am automobile with the purse on her person after she had been traveling from somewhere. She retained continuous possession of the purse until she tossed it into the automobile. Based upon this evidence, we hold a jury could reasonably find defendant guilty of trafficking in cocaine by transportation.
    We hold the court properly denied the motion. Defendant's other assignments of error listed in the record on appeal are deemed abandoned by her failure to bring them forward and argue them in her brief. N.C. R. App. P. 28(b)(6).
    No error.
    Judges CALABRIA and JACKSON concur.
    Report per Rule 30(e).

*** Converted from WordPerfect ***