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2008-UP-715 - State v. Jones

THIS OPINION HAS NO PRECEDENTIAL VALUE. IT SHOULD NOT BE CITED OR RELIED ON AS PRECEDENT IN ANY PROCEEDING EXCEPT AS PROVIDED BY RULE 239(d)(2), SCACR.

THE STATE OF SOUTH CAROLINA
In The Court of Appeals

The State, Respondent,

v.

Johnny Jones, Appellant.


Appeal From Dillon County
 John L. Breeden, Jr., Circuit Court Judge


Unpublished Opinion No. 2008-UP-715
Submitted December 1, 2008 – Filed December 18, 2008   


AFFRIMED


Appellate Defender Robert M. Pachak, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Assistant Deputy Attorney General Salley W. Elliott, Senior Assistant Attorney General Norman Mark Rapoport, all of Columbia; and Solicitor Jay E. Hodge, Jr., of Cheraw, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  Johnny Jones appeals his conviction and sentence for trafficking cocaine, arguing the trial court erred by refusing to direct a verdict of acquittal.  Jones claims he was merely present as a passenger in the vehicle in which cocaine was found and did not constructively possess the drugs.

Viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, as we must, we find the State offered sufficient circumstantial evidence to prove Jones had the right to exercise constructive possession over the cocaine in the trunk of the car.  See State v. Weston, 367 S.C. 279, 292-93, 625 S.E.2d 641, 648 (2006) (holding if there is any direct evidence or any substantial circumstantial evidence reasonably tending to prove the guilt of the accused, the appellate court must find the case was properly submitted to the jury).  Specifically, Jones’s conduct after the vehicle was pulled over by the policeman indicated he was likely a knowledgeable participant in a joint criminal act:  (1)  Jones was a passenger without any luggage in a rental car traveling from Florida to Virginia; (2) when explaining the purpose for this trip, Jones gave the policeman an explanation that was completely at odds with the driver’s account; (3) Jones contradicted himself when the policeman inquired about the person who rented the vehicle, first stating it was his uncle who rented the vehicle but admitting he did not know his uncle’s name, and finally confessing that it was not his uncle who rented the car.  See idState v. Attardo, 263 S.C. 546, 550, 211 S.E.2d 868, 869 (1975) (explaining knowledge of an illegal substance may be proved by circumstantial evidence of acts, declarations, or conduct of the accused from which the inference may be drawn that the accused knew of the existence of the prohibited substances); State v. Brown, 319 S.C. 400, 404, 461 S.E.2d 828, 830-31 (Ct. App. 1995) (finding appellant’s presence in a car at the time a drug sale occurred was evidence of actual knowledge evidencing appellant’s intent to control the disposition of the drugs);  State v. Heath, 370 S.C. 326, 329, 635 S.E.2d 18, 19 (2006) (stating constructive possession of an illegal substance can be established by circumstantial or direct evidence); State v. Williams, 346 S.C. 424, 430, 552 S.E.2d 54, 57 (Ct. App. 2001) (same).

AFFIRMED.[1]

WILLIAMS, PIEPER, and GEATHERS, JJ., concur. 


[1] We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.