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Johnson v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

September 16, 2016

Raihiem Johnson, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff.

         Appeal from the St. Joseph Superior Court The Honorable Jane Woodward Miller, Judge, Trial Court Cause No. 71D01-1505-F6-332

          Attorney for Appellant Neil L. Weisman South Bend, Indiana.

          Attorneys for Appellee Gregory F. Zoeller Attorney General of Indiana J.T. Whitehead Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana.

          NAJAM, JUDGE.

         Statement of the Case

         [¶1] Raihiem Johnson appeals his conviction for possession of a narcotic drug, as a Level 6 felony, following a jury trial. Johnson raises a single issue for our review, namely, whether the State presented sufficient evidence to demonstrate that he constructively possessed heroin found in a vehicle Johnson had been operating. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On May 18, 2015, St. Joseph County Police Department Officer Randy Rodriguez observed Johnson driving a vehicle[1] with an improperly affixed license plate. Accordingly, Officer Rodriguez initiated a traffic stop and approached the driver's side window. As he exited his vehicle, Officer Rodriguez observed Johnson stick his head out the driver's window and look back at him while Johnson's hands remained "inside the vehicle but . . . down in between the seats, " which looked like Johnson was "[s]tuffing something" away. Tr. at 35-36. And, upon approaching Johnson, Officer Rodriguez observed that Johnson "had both of his hands in between his seat and the driver's side door." Id. at 35.

         [¶3] Officer Rodriguez had Johnson and his passenger, Adam Weaver, who was in the front passenger seat, exit the vehicle while he waited for a K-9 unit to perform a sniff-search of the vehicle. Once the K-9 unit arrived, it alerted officers to the presence of contraband in the vehicle. Officer Rodriguez then searched the vehicle where he had seen Johnson's hands and found heroin wrapped in foil under the driver's seat. Underneath the front of the driver's seat, Officer Rodriguez also found a small black box in which one might keep a spare key, but this box had a "clear plastic baggie" that "contained more . . . [h]eroin" wrapped in foil. Id. at 42.

         [¶4] Officer Rodriguez then searched Johnson's person and found a part of a pen that had been cut at both ends and a piece of a credit card in one of Johnson's pockets. Inside the pen was a white powdery residue. Based on his training and experience, Officer Rodriguez recognized the cut pen and credit card as tools for ingesting narcotics. Officer Rodriguez also discovered foil in Johnson's wallet.

         [¶5] Thereafter, the State charged Johnson with possession of a narcotic drug, as a Level 6 felony. A jury found him guilty of that charge, and the trial court entered its judgment of conviction and sentence accordingly. This appeal ensued.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶6] Johnson argues on appeal that the State failed to present sufficient evidence to support his conviction. Our standard for reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence needed to support a criminal conviction is as follows:

First, we neither reweigh the evidence nor judge the credibility of witnesses. Second, we only consider the evidence supporting the [verdict] and any reasonable inferences that can be drawn from such evidence. A conviction will be affirmed if there is substantial evidence of probative value supporting each element of the offense such that a reasonable trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. It is the job of the fact-finder to determine whether the evidence in a particular case ...

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