Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Molina: More than mere presence in drug trafficking

In U.S. v. Molina, No. 04-13114 (March 24, 2006), the Court reversed the judgment of acquittal entered by the district court after the jury convicted Molina of drug trafficking conspiracy and possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug-trafficking crime.
Molina was arrested when DEA agents entered her home, and found "substantial evidence of a drug conspiracy," including a digital scale, a bag of cocaine, a firearm, and stashes of money. The district court’s acquittal was based on the conclusion that Molina was merely present in the vicinity of drugs, and on the testimony of her husband, a drug trafficker, that Molina was "unaware" of the drugs or of the drug trafficking.
Reversing, the Court noted that the evidence of a drug scale in plain view, the firearm in the open drawer of a nightstand in proximity to Molina’s passport, and her statement on arrest that she was asked by a co-conspirator to store drugs, and evidence suggesting Molina hid the drugs in a bathroom in the minute or two it took police to enter the residence after they announced their presence, was more than sufficient to sustain the conspiracy conviction. The evidence also supported her constructive possession of the firearm. Further, the district court should not have credited her husband’s account, because this story, which had inconsistencies, should have been viewed, after the jury’s conviction, in the light most favorable to the prosecution.