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Grubbs v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

August 30, 2019

Lindsay N. Grubbs, Appellant-Defendant,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Plaintiff

          Appeal from the Marion Superior Court Trial Court Cause No. 49G25-1807-F6-24993 The Honorable David Hooper, Magistrate

          Attorney for Appellant Valerie K. Boots Marion County Public Defender Agency Indianapolis, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Caroline G. Templeton Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          May, Judge.

         [¶1] Lindsay N. Grubbs appeals her convictions of Class A misdemeanor possession of methamphetamine[1] and Class C misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia.[2] Grubbs asserts the State failed to present sufficient evidence that she possessed methamphetamine and paraphernalia. We affirm.

         Facts and Procedural History

         [¶2] On July 27, 2018, Officer Katrina McEvilly of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department ("IMPD") was on patrol on the east side of Indianapolis when she ran the license plate on a black Monte Carlo travelling westbound on Washington Street. The report she received indicated the license plate was registered to a gray Pontiac, so Officer McEvilly initiated a traffic stop. The Monte Carlo was occupied by three people: the driver, the front seat passenger, and Grubbs, who was sitting in the back seat behind the passenger. Also in the back seat with Grubbs "was a bunch of personal property. It had a bunch of clothes, bags, personal belongings . . . a lot of people's personal belongings." (Tr. Vol. II at 9.) Next to Grubbs on the back seat was a blue purse, and Grubbs was holding a purse on her lap. Grubbs placed the purse she had been holding on the back seat when she exited the car.

         [¶3] Officer McEvilly determined she would tow the Monte Carlo in accordance with IMPD's standing general order 7.3, which controls the towing or impounding of vehicles, (see State's Ex. 2), and provides a vehicle may be towed if it has "no or improper certificate of registration or license plate." (State's Ex. 2 at 3.) Prior to the tow, Officer McEvilly was required to inventory all the property inside the car, including the items in the bags in the back seat of the car. Inside the purse that Grubbs had been holding, Officer McEvilly found a glass pipe used for smoking narcotics and "a baggie with white powder residue in it." (Tr. Vol. II at 14.) Laboratory testing determined the white powder residue was methamphetamine.

         [¶4] The State charged Grubbs with Level 6 felony possession of methamphetamine and Class C misdemeanor possession of paraphernalia. Grubbs waived her right to a jury trial. After hearing evidence, the trial court found Grubbs guilty as charged. The court entered Grubbs' conviction of the Level 6 felony as a Class A misdemeanor because it was Grubbs' first felony conviction. The court sentenced Grubbs to 365 days for possession of methamphetamine, with 201 days suspended, and to 60 days for possession of paraphernalia, with 60 days suspended.

         Discussion and Decision

         [¶5] Grubbs alleges the evidence was insufficient to support her convictions. When considering whether the State's evidence was sufficient to support convictions, "we consider only the probative evidence and reasonable inferences that support the trial court's finding[s] of guilt." Gray v. State, 957 N.E.2d 171, 174 (Ind. 2011). If there is conflicting evidence, we considered it in the light most favorable to the judgment. Id. The evidence need not overcome every reasonable hypothesis of innocence. Id. Rather, we must affirm "unless no reasonable trier of fact could have found the elements of the crime [proven] beyond a reasonable doubt." Id.

         [¶6] Specifically, Grubbs asserts the State failed to demonstrate she knowingly possessed the methamphetamine and paraphernalia. Convictions for possession of illegal items can be based on either actual or constructive possession. Id. Actual possession occurs when a person "has direct physical control over" an item. Id. Constructive possession can be inferred when a person had the capability and intent to maintain dominion and control over the item. Id.

         [¶7] Grubbs asserts "the only evidence of constructive possession was her close proximity to the contraband." (Br. of Appellant at 4.) In support of her assertion, Grubbs notes the back seat of the Monte Carlo was filled with bags of personal items and yet the State produced no evidence that she knew what was in the "bag" that she had been holding. (See, e.g., Reply Br. at 7) ("the State points to no additional circumstantial evidence to support an inference of guilty knowledge: only to the evidence that the bag was in Grubbs' control as it sat on her lap") (emphasis in original).

         [¶8] In her briefs, Grubbs fails to acknowledge the "bag" she was holding was neither, for example, a large trash bag of personal property nor a suitcase of clothing, either of which she could have needed to hold to sit on the back seat that was filled with bags of personal property. Rather, the "bag" that Grubbs was holding on her lap was a purse. When there were two women and two purses in the car and Grubbs had one purse on her lap, the only reasonable inference is that the purse Grubbs was holding was her own. See Norris v. State, 732 N.E.2d 186, 191 (Ind.Ct.App. 2000) (noting a purse "is generally not an object for which two or more persons share common use and authority"). Officer ...


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