Is Presence In a Public Place Where Contraband Was Found Proof Enough That Defendant Was In Possession of It ?
In People v. Pearson, 75 N.Y.2d 1001, 557 N.Y.S.2d 269, 556 N.E.2d 1076 (1990), the People's evidence was legally insufficient to establish defendant's constructive possession of cocaine found in the back room of a grocery store where defendant was arrested.
Immediately after announcing his presence, the arresting officer observed the defendant and three others exiting a back room of a grocery store and walking briskly towards the front exit where there was contraband in the back room in plain view.
There was no evidence that defendant owned, rented or had control over or a possessory interest in the store or the back room.
Nor was there proof that defendant was involved in any drug selling or other operation being conducted there. Cf, People v. Tejeda, 73 N.Y.2d 958, 540 N.Y.S.2d 985, 538 N.E.2d 337; People v. Gina 137 A.D.2d 555, 524 N.Y.S.2d 296, lv denied 71 N.Y.2d 1027.
The sole proof that defendant came from the back room is insufficient. Presence in a public place does not itself prove dominion and control over contraband discovered there.
People v. Headley, 74 N.Y.2d 858, 859, 547 N.Y.S.2d 827, 547 N.E.2d 82, affg 143 A.D.2d 937;
People v. Russell, 34 N.Y.2d 261, 264-265, 357 N.Y.S.2d 415, 313 N.E.2d 732;
People v. Siplin 29 N.Y.2d 841, 327 N.Y.S.2d 854, 277 N.E.2d 786; PL 10.00 .