This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2006).







State of Minnesota,





Jesse Garcia,




Filed May 1, 2007

Klaphake, Judge


Dakota County District Court

File No. K7-05-2604



Lori Swanson, Attorney General, 1800 Bremer Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN  55101-2134; and


James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney, Lawrence F. Clark, Assistant County Attorney, Dakota County Judicial Center, 1560 Highway 55, Hastings, MN  55033 (for respondent)


John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Bridget Kearns Sabo, Assistant State Public Defender, 2221 University Avenue Southeast, Suite 425, Minneapolis, MN  55414 (for appellant)


            Considered and decided by Willis, Presiding Judge, Klaphake, Judge, and Shumaker, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N


            Appellant Jesse Garcia challenges his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm under Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(b) (2004).  He argues that the state failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that he knowingly possessed a firearm, because police did not actually see him holding the gun that was found at his feet after they forced their way into an apartment to arrest him pursuant to an arrest warrant.  Because the evidence amply supports the inference that appellant had possession of the gun, we affirm appellant’s conviction.


            On review of a claim of insufficient evidence to support a conviction, this court must determine whether “given the facts in the record and any legitimate inferences that can be drawn from those facts, a jury could reasonably find that the defendant was guilty of the charged offense.”  State v. Laine, 715 N.W.2d 425, 430 (Minn. 2006) (quotation omitted).  “We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict.”  Id.  Where, as here, the conviction is based on circumstantial evidence, we will affirm “only if the circumstantial evidence forms a complete chain which, in light of the evidence as a whole, leads so directly to the guilt of the accused as to exclude, beyond a reasonable doubt, any reasonable inference other than that of guilt.”  Id. at 430-31 (quotation omitted).  We defer to the jury on the weight and credibility of the evidence, and we “will continue to assume [that] the jury believed the state’s witnesses and disbelieved the defendant’s witnesses.”  Id. (quotation omitted).

            In order to convict appellant of possession of a firearm, the state had to prove that he had been previously convicted of a crime of violence and that he possessed a firearm.  Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(b).  Prior to trial, appellant stipulated that his prior convictions rendered him ineligible to possess a firearm; thus, the sole issue at trial was whether he was in possession of the gun found on the floor when he was arrested.

            A person may be convicted under this statute if he actually or constructively possessed a firearm.  State v. Loyd, 321 N.W.2d 901, 902 (Minn. 1982).  To establish constructive possession, the state must show:

(a) that the police found the item in a place under defendant’s exclusive control to which other people did not normally have access, or (b) that, if police found the item in a place to which others had access, there is a strong probability, inferable from the evidence, that defendant was consciously exercising dominion and control over [the item] at the time.


State v. Breaux, 620 N.W.2d 326, 334 (Minn. App. 2001); see also State v. Willis, 320 N.W.2d 726, 728-29 (Minn. 1982) (constructive possession established when defendant “consciously exercised dominion and control over the firearm”).  The constructive possession doctrine “permits a conviction where the state cannot prove actual possession, but the inference is strong that the defendant physically possessed the item at one time and did not abandon his possessory interest in it.”  State v. Smith, 619 N.W.2d 766, 770 (Minn. App. 2000), review denied (Minn. Jan. 16, 2001).

            Appellant argues that the state failed to satisfy its burden of proving that he had constructive possession of the gun because it failed to establish who was renting the apartment where he was arrested, who else might have been staying there, whether appellant had been staying at the apartment for a period of time, or whether he was just visiting on the day that he was arrested.  Appellant asserts that the state made no attempt to show that the entryway of this apartment was under his exclusive control, and he speculates that many other people may have had regular access to this space.  Appellant further insists that the state failed to show that he consciously exercised control over the gun or that a clear connection existed between him and the gun.  Finally, appellant notes that the state failed to provide any evidence which might have shown that his fingerprints were on the gun or that others had seen him with a gun.

            Appellant’s arguments all point to evidence that did not exist or that the state did not need to produce in order to prove its case.  Constructive possession need not be exclusive and may be shared.  Id.  “Proximity is an important consideration in assessing constructive possession.”  Id.  And “a defendant may constructively possess a firearm if he placed the firearm where it was discovered.”  Id.

            That evidence presented here included the testimony of the three arresting officers, who testified that appellant was holding a cell phone in his right hand and that his left hand was partially hidden behind the door when he answered their knock.  The officers further testified that when appellant failed to respond to commands that he place his hands where they could be seen, the officers pushed their way into the apartment and restrained appellant.  The officers then saw a handgun lying on the floor between appellant’s feet, next to the cell phone that had been in his right hand.  All three officers testified that the gun was in the path of the door, which swung inward, and that it would have been impossible for the gun to have been on the floor prior to the door being opened.  The officers all denied bringing the gun to the apartment and testified that no one else was in the apartment when appellant was arrested.

            When viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, the evidence and the reasonable inferences that can be drawn from the evidence amply support the verdict reached by the jury.  We therefore conclude that the evidence was sufficient to support appellant’s conviction for possession of a firearm.