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Dye v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

November 7, 2018



          Lisa-Marie Norris, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Amanda Jegley, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.


         Appellant Michael Dye was convicted in a bench trial of possession of methamphetamine, possession of drug paraphernalia, and being a felon in possession of a firearm.[1] For his possession-of-methamphetamine conviction, he was sentenced to ten years in prison followed by a five-year suspended imposition of sentence. Dye was given a fifteen-year suspended imposition of sentence for the remaining two convictions.

         On appeal, Dye argues that the consent obtained by the officers to search his home was invalid. Dye also argues that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the incriminating evidence because the police search of his home was unlawful. Finally, Dye challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions. We affirm.

         Although listed as appellant's last point on appeal, we must first address the sufficiency of the evidence prior to any other alleged trial court error. Johnson v. State, 2014 Ark.App. 567, 444 S.W.3d 880. In a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we review the evidence in the light most favorable to the State and consider only the evidence that supports the convictions. Cluck v. State, 365 Ark. 166, 226 S.W.3d 780 (2006). Evidence is sufficient if it is of such character and force that it, with reasonable certainty, compels a conclusion one way or the other without resort to speculation or conjecture. Id. On appeal, we view all the evidence that supports the conviction, including evidence that may have been erroneously admitted. Scroggins v. State, 312 Ark. 106, 848 S.W.2d 400 (1993).

         The trial court held the suppression hearing and the bench trial simultaneously. Officer Andy Jones of the Van Buren Police Department was the first witness to testify. According to Officer Jones, the police had received complaints of trespassing on private property where a gas well was located. Jones testified that around midnight on January 14, 2017, he was patrolling in an area of "extra patrol" on Industrial Park Road.

         Officer Jones testified that while on patrol he observed two vehicles parked next to each other at the gate entrance to the gas well. There were two occupants in a truck and a single occupant in a car. Due to the previous reports of trespassing and because it was late at night, Officer Jones pulled in behind the vehicles to identify the occupants and investigate why they were there.

         As Officer Jones pulled in, a man named Mr. Watkins exited the truck from the driver's side. Appellant, Michael Dye, remained seated in the passenger seat of the truck.[2]Dye had cash in his hand and told the officer that Watkins was giving him a ride to the store to buy cigarettes. Officer Jones observed a black pouch containing loose baggies in between the driver's seat and the passenger's seat of the truck.[3] Officer Jones asked for identification from Watkins and Dye, which they each provided. Additional police cars containing Officers Hammer and Bradford had pulled up to the scene. While Officer Jones was in his patrol car running the identification cards, Watkins fled the scene on foot. Officers Hammer and Bradford unsuccessfully searched for Watkins for about ten minutes. Officer Jones learned from the identification check that appellant Dye had prior methamphetamine convictions.

         Officer Jones asked appellant Dye if he knew where Watkins would have gone. Appellant replied that Watkins was staying with him at his residence, which was on property adjacent to the gas well about fifty feet from where the truck was parked. Officer Jones asked appellant if they could check his home for Watkins, and appellant replied "yes." In addition to giving verbal consent to search his house, appellant Dye signed a consent-to-search form provided to him by Officer Hammer.

         Officer Jones acknowledged that during his conversation with Dye, Dye's speech was slurred, his eyes were glassy, and he was unsteady on his feet. Although Officer Jones did not smell alcohol on appellant Dye's breath, he believed Dye was under the influence of a narcotic. However, Officer Jones testified that Dye appeared to understand what they were asking him and appeared to know what was going on. Officer Jones stated that, although he did not ask appellant about a dog, Dye volunteered to him that there was a dog in the house and warned that it was potentially violent toward officers. Dye also volunteered to Officer Jones that there was an unloaded shotgun in the first bedroom on the right propped up next to his bed. Appellant gave the officers the key to his house.

         Officer Bradford testified that when he and Officer Hammer arrived at the scene, he observed Officer Jones speaking with a man who was outside the truck, and that the man left the scene shortly thereafter. Officers Bradford and Hammer searched the area for about ten minutes but were unable to find the man. Officer Bradford then spoke with Officer Jones, who informed him that the man they were looking for was staying in appellant Dye's residence on the adjacent property and that Dye had given his permission to enter the residence. Officer Bradford was given the information that there was a dog and a firearm in the residence. Dye signed a consent-to-search form that was witnessed by Officers Jones and Hammer.

         Based on the consent the police obtained from appellant Dye, Officer Bradford entered the residence using the key provided by Dye. Officer Bradford observed a pit bull mix dog lying on the couch in the living room. He also found a glass pipe, which he assumed was used to smoke methamphetamine, on the living-room table. Officer Bradford entered the bedroom where Dye said the gun was located and found an unloaded shotgun in the bedroom closet. There were shotgun shells directly above the gun. On the top of the headboard of the bed was a spoon containing a crystal-like substance, which subsequently tested positive for methamphetamine at the crime lab. Officer Bradford also found some straws that contained a powdery substance.

         Officer Bradford also testified as to the chronology of these events. Bradford stated that within five minutes of the initial encounter by Officer Jones, Watkins had fled the scene. Then Officers Bradford and Hammer searched for Watkins for about ten minutes. Shortly thereafter, upon obtaining appellant Dye's consent to search, Officer Bradford searched Dye's residence. Officer Bradford estimated that it was about twenty minutes between the time he arrived on the scene and the time he began the search, and after that it took about five minutes to discover all the contraband.

         We first address appellant Dye's argument on appeal that there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions. Appellant initially contends that there was nothing to connect him with the paraphernalia found in the truck, noting that there was no evidence as to who owned the truck and the paraphernalia was concealed in a pouch between the two front seats. Dye further argues that there was insufficient evidence to link him with the items seized from the residence because it was never clearly established that he occupied the residence. Alternatively, Dye argues that, at most, the State showed that he occupied the residence jointly with Watkins, and that there were no additional factors linking him to possession of the contraband. For these reasons, appellant Dye argues that his convictions should be reversed.

         Appellant's argument as to the items seized from the truck is misplaced because the State's allegations against Dye were based on the contraband seized from Dye's residence; not the truck. Thus, it is irrelevant whether appellant was in possession of the items seized from the truck. On the evidence contained in the record, we hold that there was substantial evidence to support the trial court's finding that appellant was in possession of the methamphetamine, the drug paraphernalia, and the firearm found in his residence.

         Constructive possession can be inferred when the contraband is found in a place immediately and exclusively accessible to the defendant and subject to his control. Harjo v. State, 2017 Ark.App. 337, 522 S.W.3d 839. Constructive possession can also be inferred when the contraband is in the joint control of the accused and another. Id. However, joint occupancy alone is not sufficient to establish possession or joint possession; there must be some additional factor linking the accused to the contraband. Id. In such cases, the State must prove that the accused exercised care, control, and management over the contraband and that the accused knew the matter possessed was contraband. Id. Control over the contraband can be inferred from the circumstances, such as the proximity of the contraband to the accused, the fact that it is in plain view, and the ownership of the property where the contraband is found. Nichols v. State, 306 Ark. 417, 815 S.W.2d 382 (1991).

         Contrary to appellant's argument, there was evidence that he occupied the house and that it was his residence. Upon inquiry by the police, Dye stated that Watkins was staying with him at his residence. Dye orally consented to the search of his residence and provided the police with the key that opened the front door. Dye also signed the written consent form, which stated that the house to be searched, 4616 Industrial Park Road, was "my house." Finally, Dye voluntarily informed the police about a potentially dangerous dog in the house and a shotgun in his bedroom, both ...

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