United States v. Spencer Rozier
United States v. Spencer Rozier, No. 18-10847 (March 5, 2019), UNPUBLISHED
The Court held that circumstantial evidence including the defendant’s criminal history, his signature on the storage unit lease, and his access to the storage unit was sufficient to prove he constructively possessed the controlled substances found within the storage unit.
Drug Offenses/Elements – There was sufficient evidence that defendant constructively possessed illegal drugs where the drugs at issue where found in a storage unit leased under the defendant’s name, agents had seen the defendant access it several times, the defendant had prior drug convictions, and the drugs were in plain sight within the unit.
Spencer Rozier challenged his conviction for possession of controlled substances with intent to distribute within 1,000 feet of a school after law enforcement found drugs in a storage unit he was renting.
While there was no direct evidence that Rozier ever possessed the drugs, the Government exclusively relied on circumstantial evidence that Rozier was the only one listed on the storage unit’s lease, was seen accessing the unit several times a month, and had prior convictions for drug trafficking and possession. The Court also noted that the storage unit was generally kept locked and that Rozier had visited the night before law enforcement broke into the unit.
Rozier argued on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction since it equally supported a theory of innocence. He pointed to evidence that the fingerprints on the drug containers were not his, that there was no surveillance footage of him with the containers, and that his son was arrested shortly after him for trafficking significant amounts of controlled substances. Rozier’s son was also in possession of items similar to those in the storage unit.
The Court rejected Rozier’s argument, explaining that the Government’s evidence does not have to “exclude every reasonably hypothesis of Rozier’s innocence” or be “wholly inconsistent with every conclusion except that of guilt.” While the jury could have inferred the drugs belonged to Rozier’s son, it could also infer they belonged to Rozier based on his involvement with the storage unit. The Court held that the level of control, access, and dominion Rozier had over the storage unit allowed an inference that he possessed the contents within, even if that possession was shared with his son.
Appeal from the Southern District of Florida
Per Curiam Opinion by Marcus, Martin, and Rosenbaum
Tom is a trial and appellate lawyer focusing on criminal defense and civil trials. Tom is the author of our firm’s “Eleventh Circuit Roundup” and a contributor to Mercer Law Review’s Annual Survey in the areas of federal sentencing guidelines and criminal law. Tom graduated with honors from the University of Georgia Law School where he served as a research assistant to the faculty in the areas of constitutional law and civil rights litigation. Read Tom’s reviews on AVVO. Follow Tom on Linkedin.