Hanging Out with a Drug Dealer Can Be Trouble (duh)

sale.jpgYes, we’ve all had a few friends that would not get the stamp of approval from my mom and dad, I still have a few hanging around. But sometimes, these friends can be nothing but trouble. Such was the case in Hamilton v. State, 732 So.2d 493 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1999), it’s a great sale and delivery case, and clearly presents a few common issues found in Orlando drug cases, so let’s take a look.

In Hamilton, undercover agents arranged a purchase of $60 worth of cocaine thru a seller named Terry Frasier (friend of Hamilton). Hamilton decides to hang out with Terry, not paying too much attention to Terry’s drug dealing antics. Terry sets up the $60 deal for a supermarket parking lot, and the police informant pulls up next to Terry’s car, but lines up in such a way that the informant is next to Hamilton–not the dealer Terry.

Terry rolls down Hamilton’s window and verbally puts the finishing touches on the drug deal with the informant. The informant then hands Hamilton the $60 cash (as Hamilton is closest to the informant), Hamilton then hands the $60 to Terry. Terry then hands Hamilton the cocaine, and Hamilton hands the cocaine to the informant. As you might expect, Hamilton is charged with possession of cocaine, because, after all, Hamilton actually possessed it, right?

Possession requires both “dominion” and “control”. Did Hamilton really have either in this scenario? The appeals court overturned the conviction, holding that the mere fact that the cocaine was passed from one party to another party did not establish dominion and control over the cocaine. True, Hamilton had some ‘control’ over the cocaine, but not dominion, especially in the presence of the cocaine’s true owner, Terry. So, let’s hope you’re never in such a situation, but should such bad luck occur because you’re hanging around the wrong people, simply give me, John Guidry, a call to discuss your options.