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State v. Demarais

July 21, 2009

STATE OF NORTH DAKOTA, PLAINTIFF AND APPELLEE
v.
JUDY ANN DEMARAIS, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT



Appeal from the District Court of Grand Forks County, Northeast Central Judicial District, the Honorable Sonja Clapp, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Crothers, Justice.

AFFIRMED.

Opinion of the Court by Crothers, Justice.

[¶1] Judy Demarais appeals the district court's judgments entered after a jury found her guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana and failure to appear. We affirm.

I.

[¶2] Demarais' residence was subject to unannounced probation searches because her live-in boyfriend, Marty Erickson, was on supervised probation. On August 13, 2007, four officers conducted a probation search at Demarais and Erickson's residence. Erickson's probation officer, Wade Price, testified they found Erickson in the living room and Demarais sitting on the floor in the master bedroom unpacking boxes. Steve Gilpin, a special agent with the North Dakota Bureau of Criminal Investigation and involved in the search, testified he asked Demarais to leave the master bedroom and go to and stay in the living room while the search was conducted. Agent Gilpin stated Demarais informed him the house was hers and she and Erickson shared the master bedroom.

[¶3] During the search, the officers found a black and white purse in a dresser drawer in the master bedroom. Inside the black and white purse, officers found (1) a glass pipe containing methamphetamine residue, (2) numerous Q-tips, one with methamphetamine residue on it, (3) a black digital scale, (4) another black scale, (5) a black plastic case, (6) two ziploc baggies, one containing methamphetamine residue and (7) a cloth case that contained the glass pipe. Inside the same dresser drawer, the officers found a black case containing numerous Q-tips. On the floor of the master bedroom, officers found and seized a blue nylon case containing 1.03 grams of marijuana. Also found on the floor of the master bedroom were two packs of detox tea and four packs of detox seven. Officer Price testified detox seven is a "ready clean" substance, meaning it speeds up the process of ridding an individual's body of drugs. At the time of the search, neither Demarais nor Erickson claimed ownership of these items.

[¶4] After the search, both Erickson and Demarais were arrested and charged with possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana. Erickson was subject to urinalysis and tested positive for methamphetamine. Subsequently, Erickson pled guilty to possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

[¶5] At Demarais' initial appearance on August 14, 2007, Demarais pled not guilty and was released on her promise to appear at future court dates. A preliminary hearing was set for September 17, 2007. Demarais appeared at the preliminary hearing and asked for a continuance. The continuance was granted, and the preliminary hearing was rescheduled for October 5, 2007. Demarais failed to appear at the October 5, 2007 hearing, and a warrant for Demarais' arrest was issued at 5:00 p.m. on October 5, 2007. The district court did not hear from Demarais until she turned herself in on October 16, 2007.

[¶6] On May 6-9, 2008, a jury trial was held on all three charges. At trial, each of the officers who participated in the probation search testified about the items seized during the search. Erickson testified, claiming that the marijuana and drug paraphernalia belonged to him and that Demarais did not know the items existed. Demarais also testified, denying she knew anything about the drug paraphernalia or the marijuana. Demarais stated she did not attend her preliminary hearing on October 5, 2007 because she did not wake up until 6:00 p.m. which she attributed to her diabetic condition. The jury found Demarais guilty on all three charges. II[¶7] Demarais argues insufficient evidence exists to support the jury's guilty verdicts on the possession of drug paraphernalia charge and on the failure to appear charge. "Appellate review of the sufficiency of the evidence for a jury verdict is very limited." State v. Alvarado, 2008 ND 203, ¶ 20, 757 N.W.2d 570 (quoting State v. Freed, 1999 ND 185, ¶ 4, 599 N.W.2d 858). "When the sufficiency of evidence to support a criminal conviction is challenged, this Court merely reviews the record to determine if there is competent evidence allowing the jury to draw an inference reasonably tending to prove guilt and fairly warranting a conviction." State v. Coppage, 2008 ND 134, ¶ 24, 751 N.W.2d 254 (quoting State v. Schmeets, 2007 ND 197, ¶ 8, 742 N.W.2d 513). "The defendant bears the burden of showing the evidence reveals no reasonable inference of guilt when viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict." Coppage, at ¶ 24 (quoting Schmeets, at ¶ 8). When considering insufficiency of the evidence, we will not "reweigh conflicting evidence or judge the credibility of witnesses." State v. Hidanovic, 2008 ND 66, ¶ 44, 747 N.W.2d 463. We have held, "A jury may find a defendant guilty even though evidence exists which, if believed, could lead to a verdict of not guilty." State v. Wilson, 2004 ND 51, ¶ 9, 676 N.W.2d 98 (quoting State v. Hatch, 346 N.W.2d 268, 277 (N.D. 1984)).

A.

[¶8] Demarais argues insufficient evidence exists to uphold the jury's guilty verdict on the possession of drug paraphernalia charge because the State failed to prove she possessed the drug paraphernalia with the intent to use it. A person violates N.D.C.C. § 19-03.4-03 if the individual possesses drug paraphernalia with the intent to use it for the purpose of ingesting, preparing or storing a controlled substance. We have stated that "[p]ossession may be actual or constructive, exclusive or joint and may be shown entirely by circumstantial evidence." State v. Morris, 331 N.W.2d 48, 53 (N.D. 1983) (citation omitted). Constructive possession is proven when the evidence "establishes that the accused had the power and capability to exercise dominion and control over the [controlled substance]." Id. "Some of the additional circumstances which may support an inference of constructive possession are an accused's presence in the place where a controlled substance is found, his proximity to the place where it is found, and the fact that the controlled substance is found in plain view." Id. at 54 (internal citations omitted). Demarais admits she possessed the drug paraphernalia, but argues she did not possess the drug paraphernalia with the intent to use it for the purpose of ingesting, preparing or storing a controlled substance.

[¶9] We have recognized that in nearly all possession of drug paraphernalia cases, the State will "be forced to prove intent [to use the paraphernalia for the purpose of ingesting, preparing or storing a controlled substance] by circumstantial evidence." State v. Raywalt, 436 N.W.2d 234, 237 (N.D. 1989). We have also held that "[a] verdict based on circumstantial evidence carries the same presumption of correctness as other verdicts." State v. Bertram, 2006 ND 10, ¶ 5, 708 N.W.2d 913 (quoting State v. Noorlun, 2005 ND 189, ¶ 20, 705 N.W.2d 819).

[ΒΆ10] In this case, the circumstantial evidence supporting the jury's verdict is particularly strong. The evidence reveals the drug paraphernalia was located in a woman's purse inside Demarais' house in the bedroom she shared with her boyfriend. The record further demonstrates the purse containing the paraphernalia was inside a dresser drawer that contained women's undergarments. The officers testified when they began the search, Demarais was in the bedroom and within arms reach of the drug paraphernalia. The officers found a glass pipe when they opened the purse. Agent Graham, participated in the probation search and testified the glass pipe had been used ...


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