When cops in Orlando see teenagers hanging out with backpacks, they see a drug bust waiting to happen. Police are always suspicious of a kid with dreadlocks and a backpack, I mean really, aren’t dreadlocks a reasonable suspicion to search? Maybe in China or Iran, of course. Well, you know where I’m going with this, so let’s dive right in.
The case for today is M.A.F. v. State of Florida, 2012 WL 516186 (Fla. 2nd DCA 2012). M.A.F. is a juvenile defendant, so his name is not used, only his initials (you knew that, right? Just checking). The kid was convicted of introduction of contraband into a county detention facility and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana. He originally drew the attention of the police because he was smoking a cigar. The police saw this, ran his name, and discovered a warrant so they arrested him. The cops seized his backpack, and later found weed inside.
The backpack remained in the front seat of the cop car, and eventually entered the jail facility via the police officer placing it there. So, how did the kid get convicted of introducing the contraband into a county detention facility if he was already under arrest when the backpack was taken, and if the police officer was actually the person that introduced it into the jail?
You’re probably tired of me saying this, but “possession” in this type of case is considered “constructive possession“, and thus it requires two things: 1) that the person know of the drugs presence and 2) that the person has the ability to maintain control over it. So, the State could prove knowledge in this case (maybe?), but certainly not ‘ability to control’. This is the MAJOR problem with trying to prove constructive possession cases. The appeals court reversed the conviction here because the State “did not establish that he had the ability to maintain control of [the backpack]”. After all, it was the deputy that placed M.A.F. in the patrol car, cuffed him, separated him by a glass window from the backpack on the front seat. Where’s the access here? Where’s the ability to control? There is none. Conviction reversed. Have a nice day.