Searching over 5,500,000 cases.

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.


decided: April 21, 1988.


On appeal from the 36th District Court of San Patricio County, Texas.

Noah Kennedy, J.; Paul W. Nye, C. J.; and Robert J. Seerden, J.

Author: Kennedy

Nelda Davila was convicted of unlawful possession of heroin and sentenced by a jury to three years confinement and a $1000 fine. She appeals on the grounds that the evidence was insufficient and that the court erred in failing to submit two requested jury charges. We affirm the judgment of the trial court.

DPS Trooper Loren Ahrens and San Patricio Deputy Sheriff Greg Alan, having received certain information about the car appellant was driving and which was registered to her passenger, Linda Villa, patrolled a portion of U.S. 181 between the cities of Portland and Gregory, Texas, in search of the car at around 6:00 p.m., January 3, 1987. Alan was the first to make contact with the car, which was traveling toward a point along the highway where Ahrens was waiting. Ahrens testified that at about the time appellant's car passed him, he noticed that Alan activated his emergency lights to signal the car to stop. Ahrens then gave chase behind Alan. The car pulled onto the shoulder, but continued to travel for some 150 feet before stopping, which in Ahren's opinion was unusual because "it took too long to stop." At the time the car was traveling on the shoulder, Ahrens noticed Villa dumping a white powder, later identified as heroin, out the passenger side window and then throwing a baggie out. In the meantime, Alan had pulled ahead of the car and onto the shoulder to force it to stop.

Alan's testimony substantially confirmed that of Ahrens. However, Alan testified that the car traveled between 300 and 400 feet at around twenty miles an hour along the shoulder of the road.

Appellant herself testified that she had continued along the shoulder of the road for some distance because she thought that Alan was not going to stop her after he pulled onto the road again and began to pass her car. Appellant claimed that she was paying attention to the road at the time and did not see Villa dumping the heroin, nor was she even aware that Villa possessed the heroin.

After Alan pulled in front of the car and forced it to stop, he and Ahrens arrested the appellant and Villa, and recovered the baggie which had been thrown from the car and contained some white powder. Lab tests later showed the powder to be heroin. They also found white powder on the passenger side door of the car, drug paraphernalia (roach clips and a syringe) in the glove compartment, and an automatic handgun under the front seat on the passenger side.

Kathy Parnell, a corrections officer with the San Patricio County Sherriff's Office, testified that on the day of the arrest she booked and strip searched appellant. During the strip search, Parnell found fresh needle marks on appellant's arm which Parnell believed to be less than three days old. In addition, Millie Delgado, matron at San Patricio County Jail, testified that the appellant had complained to her at around 4:00 a.m. the next morning, January 4, 1987, that she wasn't feeling well and that she was "coming down on heroin." Delgado testified that Villa also had narcotics withdrawal symptoms that night.

In her first point of error, appellant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to show her possession of the heroin thrown from Villa's car.

In reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, an appellate court looks at all the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict or judgment and determines whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Houston v. State, 663 S.W.2d 455 (Tex. Crim. App. 1984). In addition, because the present conviction is based on circumstantial evidence of possession, it cannot be sustained if the circumstances do not exclude every other reasonable hypothesis except that of appellant's guilt. Humason v. State, 728 S.W.2d 363, 366 (Tex. Crim. App. 1987); Moore v. State, 640 S.W.2d 300, 302 (Tex. Crim. App. 1982).

The evidence shows that both appellant and Villa were in the car immediately prior to Villa's disposal of the heroin. Mere presence of appellant at the scene of the offense, however, does not make her a party to joint possession. There must be additional evidence to show an "affirmative link" between appellant and the heroin to establish that she both knew what the substance was and exercised care, control, and management over it. Cude v. State, 716 S.W.2d 46, 47 (Tex. Crim. App. 1986); McGoldrick v. State, 682 S.W.2d 573, 578 (Tex. Crim. App. 1985).

The affirmative links in the present case which tie appellant to the heroin are: her furtive gesture of failing timely to stop the car on the shoulder of the road; and evidence of her recent use of heroin. We hold that these circumstances sufficiently link appellant to the heroin.

Furtive gestures are an affirmative link between the accused and drugs he attempts to hide or dispose of. See Reyes v. State, 575 S.W.2d 38, 40 (Tex. Crim. App. 1979). In the present case, appellant's hesitation in stopping the car clearly facilitated Villa's disposal of the heroin. By helping to dispose of the heroin in this manner, appellant demonstrated that she both knew what the substance was and exercised care, control and management over it jointly with Villa.

Evidence shortly after the arrest of appellant's recent use of heroin is also an affirmative link between the appellant and the heroin found at the scene of the arrest. See Orosco v. State, 164 Tex. Crim. 257, 298 S.W.2d 134, 136 (Tex. Crim. App. 1957); Durham v. State, 701 S.W.2d 951, 956 (Tex. App.--Fort Worth 1986, pet. ...

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.