Superior Court County: King. Superior Court Cause No: 93-1-02068-2. Judgment & Sentence: September 10, 1993, Judge Frank L. Sullivan. Denial of Motion to Modify: October 26, 1994, Richard Jones.
Written by: Judge Kennedy. Concurred by: Judge Grosse, Judge Agid
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kennedy
KENNEDY, A.C.J. -- Raul Cantabrana appeals his conviction of possession of heroin and cocaine with intent to distribute. The jury was instructed that constructive possession of drugs occurs when a person has dominion and control over the premises in which the drugs are found. We hold that the jury should have been instructed that dominion and control over premises raises a rebuttable inference of dominion and control over drugs found therein. Accordingly, we reverse and remand for a new trial.
Late in the morning on a spring day in 1993, Seattle Police executed a search warrant at Raul Cantabrana's residence. Inside the apartment, police found Cantabrana in the bathroom, and three other men sifting in the living room. In various places throughout the apartment police found approximately 286 grams of suspected heroin with an estimated street value of $71,500, 117 grams of suspected cocaine with an estimated street value of $11,700, a handgun, packaging materials, a suspected cutting agent, scales, a pager, money order receipts, over $5,000 in cash, and a small notebook containing what appeared to police to be records of narcotics sales. The detectives located Cantabrana's identification, personal papers and bills at the apartment, and found a rent receipt for the apartment in the names of "Raul Ayon Contar" and "Miguel Angel Lopez." Police also found telephone bills for the apartment that did not include Cantabrana's name, and a telephone bill addressed to Cantabrana showing a different address from the address of the apartment searched. One of Cantabrana's co-defendants testified that Cantabrana shared his bedroom with another person.
The State charged Cantabrana and others with possession of heroin and cocaine with intent to deliver, in violation of RCW 69.50.401(a)(1)(i). Charges against two of the co-defendants were dismissed after a Knapstad *fn1 motion. The jury found the third co-defendant not guilty of Count II, but could not reach a verdict on Count I. The jury found Cantabrana guilty of both counts. Cantabrana was sentenced within the standard range, and now appeals.
Cantabrana requested that the trial court give as a jury instruction WPIC 50.03, which does not permit constructive possession to be found solely upon evidence of dominion and control over premises where drugs are located:
Possession means having a substance in one's custody or control. It may be actual or constructive. Actual possession occurs when the item is in the actual physical custody of the person charged with possession. Constructive possession occurs when there is no actual physical possession but there is dominion and control over the substance. Dominion and control need not be exclusive to establish constructive possession. (Emphasis ours.)
The court rejected Cantabrana's request, and instead instructed the jury that:
Possession means knowingly having a substance in one's custody or control. It may be either actual or constructive. Actual possession occurs when the item is in the actual physical custody of the person charged with the possession. Constructive possession occurs when there is no actual physical possession but there is dominion and control over the substance or the premises upon which the substance was found. Dominion and control does not have to be exclusive to establish constructive possession. (Instruction 14; emphasis ours.)
Mere presence of the defendant at a residence where drugs are found is insufficient to establish constructive possession. The State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant exercised dominion and control over the premises where drugs were found. (Instruction 21; emphasis ours.)
Clerk's Papers at 71, 78. Cantabrana challenges the trial court's decision to give Instructions 14 and 21, contending that by requiring the jury to find him in constructive possession of the drugs once the jury found that he had dominion and control over the premises in which the drugs were ...