Circumstantial Evidence Offered Did Not Prove Intent to Sell Marijuana

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The possession of marijuana with intent to sell is a more serious offense than simple possession and such intent may be shown by direct or circumstantial evidence. In determining if there was intent to sell, factors which may be considered include the packaging of the controlled substance, the quantity found, the presence of cash or drug paraphernalia, and the suspect’s activities.

If the circumstantial evidence of the intent to sell is not adequate, the charge may not withstand scrutiny, as seen in the North Carolina Court of Appeals case of In re N.J.

Possession of marijuana . . . with intent to sell?

The officer was conducting a foot patrol through a housing complex in Durham attempting to locate trespassers when he noticed three juveniles sitting on an electrical box. As the officer approached, the defendant tossed his cap to the ground.

The officer asked the group if they had seen any trespassers, and then asked the defendant if he had any weapons on him and would consent to a search. The officer felt a large bump in the defendant’s pockets. The defendant allegedly admitted it was marijuana, at which point the officer handcuffed the defendant. He then retrieved the cap which had been tossed and inside he found 13 individually wrapped bags of marijuana.

The juvenile defendant was charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell and was found delinquent. The defendant appealed on several grounds, including that the prosecution failed to provide a sufficient factual basis to establish that the defendant had intended to sell the marijuana.

Circumstantial evidence presented

The North Carolina Court of Appeals noted that the quantity of drugs found may be sufficient to support an inference of intent to sell, but it must be a substantial amount. Here, the defendant had only 10.98 grams which did not, alone, show that the defendant intended to sell the marijuana.

In addition, the method and type of packaging may be used to infer an intent to sell, but it also is not determinative. While the marijuana in this case had been divided into individual baggies, it was just as likely that the defendant was a consumer who had purchased the drugs in that particular packaging as it was that the defendant might be selling the drugs. There was no evidence presented that the amount of marijuana seized was more than the amount typically purchased for personal use.

Finally, the presence of cash or drug paraphernalia on the defendant’s person may also be evidence of drug possession with intent to sell, but the defendant possessed no drug paraphernalia, weapons or cash. Indeed, there was no evidence at all showing his actions were consistent with those of a drug dealer.

Therefore, the evidence presented was insufficient to support an inference of intent to sell marijuana, and the defendant’s charge would be reduced to simple possession.

Reviewing the circumstances of your arrest

If you are accused of possession of a controlled substance, an attorney may be able to help you mitigate the consequences of the charge. Your attorney should carefully review the circumstances of your arrest, assessing the validity of police actions. Seek an attorney who will provide attentive representation tailored to the unique needs of your situation.