Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Lambert v. State

Supreme Court of Arkansas

February 16, 2017

DERRICK GERADE LAMBERT APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

         APPEAL FROM THE DREW COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 22CR-15-2] HONORABLE SAM POPE, JUDGE.

         AFFIRMED; COURT OF APPEALS OPINION VACATED.

          John F. Gibson, Jr., for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Kristen C. Green, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          JOHN DAN KEMP, Chief Justice

         Appellant Derrick Gerade Lambert was convicted by a Drew County jury of one count of felon in possession of a firearm, and he was sentenced to a term of four years' imprisonment in the Arkansas Department of Correction. After trial, Lambert filed a motion for new trial, which was denied. For reversal, Lambert contends that the circuit court erred in denying his motion for directed verdict because the State failed to present sufficient evidence that he possessed the firearm. He further contends that the circuit court erred in denying his motion for new trial because the State withheld exculpatory evidence from the defense.[1] We find no error and affirm.

         I. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         A person who has been convicted of a felony is prohibited from possessing or owning any firearm. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-73-103(a)(1) (Repl. 2016). Lambert conceded at trial that he is a convicted felon, but he argued in his directed-verdict motion that the State failed to present sufficient evidence that he possessed a firearm. In reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, this court determines whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial. E.g., Airsman v. State, 2014 Ark. 500, 451 S.W.3d 565. Substantial evidence is evidence that is forceful enough to compel a conclusion one way or the other beyond suspicion or conjecture. Id., 451 S.W.3d 565. The evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the State, and only evidence supporting the verdict will be considered. Id., 451 S.W.3d 565.

         The following evidence was presented at trial. At approximately 2:00 a.m. on December 11, 2014, Special Agent John Carter of the Tenth Judicial Drug Task Force initiated a traffic stop of a Chevrolet Tahoe for having no rear license plate. The vehicle was driven by Misty Johnson. Alex Harrington was a front-seat passenger, and Lambert was sitting in the backseat on the passenger side. While Carter spoke with Johnson and obtained her license and information, Lambert opened the rear passenger door and tried to exit the vehicle. Carter told Lambert to stay in the vehicle. Meanwhile, Officer Ben Michel arrived on the scene to assist with the traffic stop. Carter asked Johnson to step out of the vehicle and then advised Michel to "keep an eye on" Harrington and Lambert. Michel stated that, while he watched the vehicle, he did not see anyone "pass anything around the car" and that he "didn't see anything handed from the front to the back." Carter testified that he did not see Harrington turn around in his seat and reach over the backseat. Carter further testified he observed Lambert moving around a lot inside the vehicle.

         Carter requested consent from Johnson to search the Tahoe. Johnson testified that she consented to the search. She also testified that both Lambert and Harrington had told her not to allow the search. While searching the vehicle, Michel pulled down the backseat armrest and saw a gun. Johnson denied that the gun belonged to her and said that she had no idea how or when the gun was placed in the vehicle. Lambert denied that the gun belonged to him. He maintained that the gun had been placed under the armrest by Harrington, the front-seat passenger.

         On appeal, Lambert contends that this evidence failed to prove that he possessed the firearm. A conviction for violating section 5-73-103(a)(1) may be based on actual or constructive possession. See, e.g., Jones v. State, 355 Ark. 630, 144 S.W.3d 254 (2004). In this case, the State relied on a theory of constructive possession. Constructive possession of contraband means knowledge of its presence and control over it. See Cary v. State, 259 Ark. 510, 534 S.W.2d 230 (1976); see also United States v. Roberts, 953 F.2d 351, 353 (8th Cir. 1992) (noting that "constructive possession" has been defined as "knowledge of presence plus control"). Possession may be imputed when the contraband is found in a place that is immediately and exclusively accessible to the accused and subject to his or her dominion and control, or to the joint dominion and control of the accused and another. Cary, 259 Ark. 510, 534 S.W.2d 230.

         Joint occupancy of a vehicle may raise an inference of constructive possession of contraband, but it is insufficient, by itself, to establish that possession. See Garner v. State, 355 Ark. 82, 131 S.W.3d 734 (2003). There must be some additional factor linking the accused to the contraband. Id., 131 S.W.3d 734. Among the factors this court has considered in cases involving vehicles occupied by more than one person are (1) whether the contraband was found on the same side of the car seat as the accused was sitting or in near proximity to him and (2) whether the accused acted suspiciously before or during the arrest. Plotts v. State, 297 Ark. 66, 759 S.W.2d 793 (1988); see also Loggins v. State, 2010 Ark. 414, 372 S.W.3d 785 (noting that an accused's suspicious behavior coupled with proximity to the contraband is clearly indicative of possession).

         In the present case, the State presented sufficient evidence to establish that Lambert constructively possessed the contraband. Although there was joint occupancy of the vehicle, the State presented other evidence linking Lambert to the gun. The gun was found in the backseat where Lambert had been the sole passenger. The compartment in which the gun was found was immediately and exclusively accessible to Lambert. Moreover, Lambert behaved suspiciously before and during the traffic stop. He told Johnson not to allow the officers to search the vehicle, he exited the vehicle before the police could approach it, and he moved around a lot inside the vehicle. We conclude that substantial evidence supports Lambert's conviction for felon in possession of a firearm and that the circuit court did not err in denying Lambert's motion for directed verdict.

         II. Motion ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.