This opinion will be unpublished and
may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
State of Minnesota,
Todd Michael Fryman,
Filed September 12, 2000
Anoka County District Court
File No. K6-98-9929
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN 55103; and
Robert M.A. Johnson, Anoka County Attorney, Marcy S. Crain, Assistant County Attorney, Anoka County Government Center, 2100 Third Avenue, Anoka, MN 55303 (for respondent)
John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Cathryn Middlebrook, Assistant State Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue S.E., Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN 55414 (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Lansing, Judge, and Parker, Judge.*
U N P U B L I S H E D O P I N I O N
Appellant challenges his conviction of fifth-degree controlled-substance crime, claiming the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. We affirm.
On May 8, 1998, at approximately 5:00 a.m., appellant Todd Michael Fryman was driving north on Hanson Boulevard in Coon Rapids. When he reached the intersection at Coon Rapids Boulevard, a southbound vehicle made a left turn in front of him. Appellant swerved, lost control of his pickup truck, and hit a light pole. Scott Schulte, the owner of a nearby Texaco station, heard glass breaking and came outside. Schulte saw the light pole on the ground and a pickup truck on the boulevard. He also saw appellant jumping up and down on the hood of the truck. Schulte went back into the gas station, and appellant followed him inside. Schulte told appellant that he was going to call the police to get the light pole moved. After Schulte had already called the police, appellant re-entered the gas station and told Schulte not to call the police. Appellant then went to a pay telephone and called his father, the truck’s owner.
Officer Kenneth Young of the Coon Rapids Police Department arrived at the scene, ran a license check, and discovered that appellant’s license was suspended and that he had an outstanding warrant in Ramsey County.
Officer Young arrested appellant on the outstanding warrant, pat-searched him, handcuffed him with his wrists behind his back, and put him in the back seat of the squad car. Officer Young then transported appellant to the Anoka County Jail, parked the car in the sally-port area of the jail and went inside to book appellant. When Officer Young returned to his squad car, he searched the removable back seat, which is standard procedure after transporting detainees. Officer Young found a folded piece of paper with a powdery substance inside and suspected that the paper packet, called a bindle, contained narcotics. Tests confirmed that the bindle contained .1 gram of methamphetamine. There had been three other individuals in the back seat of Officer Young’s squad car during the shift on which appellant was arrested, but the officer testified that he had thoroughly searched the back seat after each detention and found the bindle only after appellant had been in the car.
After a jury trial, appellant was convicted of one count of fifth-degree controlled-substance crime, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.025, subd. 2(1) (1998), and driving after suspension, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 171.24, subd. 1 (1998). For the controlled-substance conviction, the district court fined appellant $3,000, sentenced him to 45 days in jail, and placed him on probation for five years. For the conviction of driving after suspension, the district court sentenced appellant to 45 days in jail, to be served concurrently with the jail time imposed for the controlled-substance conviction. This appeal follows.
Appellant argues that the state failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he possessed the methamphetamine found in the squad car. When reviewing a claim of insufficient evidence in a criminal case
[w]e must determine whether, under the facts in the record and any legitimate inferences that can be drawn from them, a jury could reasonably conclude the defendant was guilty of the offense charged. We must view the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution and assume the jury believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved any contrary evidence.
State v. Bias, 419 N.W.2d 480, 484 (Minn. 1988) (citations omitted). A conviction based on circumstantial evidence merits close scrutiny, but the evidence is entitled to the same weight as any other evidence provided that the circumstances proved “are consistent with the hypothesis that the accused is guilty and inconsistent with any rational hypothesis except that of guilt.” Id. (citing State v. Race, 383 N.W.2d 656, 661 (Minn. 1986)). Appellant argues that his conviction must be reversed because the circumstantial evidence presented by the state is consistent with the hypothesis that someone other than appellant could have put the methamphetamine in the squad car.
Possession of a controlled substance may be physical or constructive. See State v. Florine, 303 Minn. 103, 104, 226 N.W.2d 609, 610 (1975). Because there is no evidence here of physical possession by appellant, the issue is whether there was sufficient evidence to prove that appellant constructively possessed the methamphetamine. To prove constructive possession, the state must show
(a) that the police found the substance in a place under defendant’s exclusive control to which other people did not normally have access, or
(b) that, if police found it in a place to which others had access, there is a strong probability (inferable from other evidence) that defendant was at that time consciously exercising dominion and control over it.
Id. at 105, 226 N.W.2d at 611 (citations omitted). Because appellant did not have exclusive dominion and control over the back seat of the squad car, the state had to show a strong probability that appellant exercised dominion and control over the methamphetamine. See id.; see also State v. Wiley, 366 N.W.2d 265, 270 (Minn. 1985).
Officer Young testified that (1) upon encountering appellant at the scene he observed that appellant was “very high-strung, jittery, [and] was pacing back and forth”; (2) after he handcuffed appellant and placed him in the squad car, and while standing approximately 15 feet from the car, he observed the back end of the car moving up and down for three to four seconds, which he attributed to movement by appellant; and (3) although he detained three individuals before arresting appellant, he had thoroughly searched the back seat after each detention and found the bindle of methamphetamine only after appellant had been in the car. Officer Young further testified that a “thorough” search involves (1) checking the floorboard; (2) lifting up the removable seat and checking the springs and fabric under it; (3) lifting up the flap of fabric on the seat and checking under it; (4) pulling out the seatbelts and checking them and the area behind them; and (5) checking under the driver’s seat and passenger’s seat from front to back.
Appellant argues that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction because (1) the bindle is so small that it may have easily been overlooked in Officer Young’s previous searches; (2) his nervous, jittery behavior was understandable because he was driving with a suspended license and had just been in an accident with his father’s vehicle; and (3) if the bindle were his, he had ample opportunity to discard it after the accident and before the arrest. But conjectures do not justify reversal and the record does not support the theory that anyone other than appellant possessed the methamphetamine. See State v. Wallace, 558 N.W.2d 469, 473 (Minn. 1997).
Viewing the evidence in a light most favorable to the prosecution, the record supports the jury’s conclusion that appellant possessed the methamphetamine that was found in the squad car.