Colorado court tosses conviction for car passenger in drug case
November 22, 2010
GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (AP) – Simply being in a vehicle when police find drugs inside does not mean a person can be convicted of possession, according to state appellate court.
The Daily Sentinel of Grand Junction reports the Colorado Court of Appeals has thrown out a possession with intent to distribute conviction and 14-year prison sentence for 28-year-old Roque Garcia-Castaneda.
The court ruled Thursday that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Garcia-Castaneda, who was a passenger in a car stopped Feb. 23, 2007, on Interstate 70 where police found 13 pounds of cocaine in hidden compartments.
The appellate court wrote that verdicts in criminal cases may not be “based on guessing, speculation or conjecture.”
Mesa County prosecutors plan to appeal the ruling to the Colorado Supreme Court.
“Our office stands by the Mesa County jury’s determination that the evidence was sufficient to find the defendant guilty,” Mesa County Chief Deputy District Attorney Dan Rubinstein said.
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Prosecutors argued that Garcia-Castaneda and the driver both took a “defeated” posture by placing their heads down and crouching with their elbows on their knees when a drug sniffing dog alerted officers to the drugs. A search found the cocaine in hidden compartments behind the dashboard.
The cocaine and the reaction provided proof of possession, prosecutors argued.
Garcia-Castaneda remains in prison, but he may be released if the Colorado Supreme Court declines to hear the case.