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State v. Neal

Supreme Court of Idaho, Boise

November 26, 2013

STATE of Idaho, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Sydney Lorelei NEAL, Defendant-Appellant.

Page 167

Justin M. Curtis, Deputy State Appellate Public Defender, Boise, argued for appellant.

Jessica M. Lorello, Deputy Attorney General, Boise, argued for respondent.

EISMANN, Justice.

This is an appeal out of Ada County from the order of the district court denying a motion to dismiss, for the lack of probable cause, the felony charge of possession of methadone, a controlled substance. The methadone was discovered upon the birth of the defendant's baby girl in the umbilical cord. We hold that for the purposes of determining whether there was probable cause to believe that the defendant had possessed a controlled substance, the magistrate judge could reasonably have inferred that the defendant consumed the methadone; that she possessed it before she consumed it; and that she knew it was either methadone or a controlled substance when she was possessing it.

Page 168

I.

Factual Background.

On March 27, 2011, Sidney Neal (Defendant) gave birth to a baby girl at a hospital located in Meridian, Idaho. During the process of being admitted to the hospital, Defendant stated that she had been taking prescribed oxycodone and hydrocodone every six hours during her pregnancy to combat pain related to a pilonidal cyst. The baby had signs of opiate withdrawal after her birth. The umbilical cord was sent to the medical laboratory, and the lab report was positive for methadone. The cord was then sent to the United States Drug Testing Laboratories, which confirmed the presence of methadone.

On August 11, 2011, the State filed a criminal complaint charging Defendant with the felony crime of possessing methadone, a schedule II controlled substance. On September 23, 2011, Defendant appeared in the magistrate division of the district court pursuant to a summons, and the court appointed an attorney to represent her. The preliminary hearing was held on November 17, 2011. Based upon the evidence presented, the magistrate found that there was probable cause to believe that Defendant had committed the crime charged, and Defendant was bound over to answer in the district court.

On November 18, 2011, the State filed an information in the district court charging Defendant with possession of methadone. Defendant appeared in court on December 15, 2011, and entered a plea of not guilty.

On December 16, 2011, Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charge on the ground that the evidence presented during the preliminary hearing failed to establish that there was probable cause to believe that Defendant committed the crime charged. In her supporting brief, Defendant argued that the presence of a controlled substance in the umbilical cord was insufficient to prove possession of the substance by Defendant, because once the substance is in a person's body the person no longer has dominion or control over the substance. She also argued that the positive test by itself was insufficient to prove the crime of possession. The district court heard the motion on March 14, 2012, and on April 10, 2012, it entered an order denying the motion to dismiss.

On April 19, 2012, the State and Defendant entered into a written stipulation providing that Defendant would plead guilty to the charge while reserving her right to appeal the denial of her motion to dismiss and that if she prevails on appeal, she would withdraw her guilty plea. Defendant pleaded guilty to the charge, and on June 14, 2012, the district court withheld entry of the judgment of conviction and placed her on probation for five years. Defendant then timely appealed.

II.

Did the District Court Err in Denying Defendant's Motion to Dismiss for Lack of ...


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