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Defendants Request for Jury Instruction Regarding Scienter was Denied


The defendant is appealing a judgment of conviction and sentence based on a jury verdict that found him to be guilty of possession of narcotics. The main argument of the appellant is that the ruling of the trial court that denied his request for a jury instruction on the issue of scienter.

Case Background

The appellant was tried on two counts, possession of morphine and marijuana possession. The only evidence that was supplied for the count of possession for morphine was a powdered substance that was found on a playing card that was on the appellant’s dresser in his bedroom. This substance was not positively identified as morphine.

The jury did find the appellant guilty on this charge. However, the court set aside the verdict and a new trial was granted based on insufficient evidence. There is no issue of this count before the court.

A New York Criminal Lawyer said the evidence for the second count shows that the appellant lives with another man in an apartment. The appellant was the only person present when the search of the apartment took place. The search revealed several vials of marijuana hidden throughout the apartment. The appellant was arrested.

The appellant denied knowing about any marijuana in the apartment and denied that any of the pipes that were found were ever used by him. The roommate of the appellant has an equal custody of all of the items within the apartment.

Court Discussion and Decision

A Nassau County Criminal Lawyer said at the end of the trial the defendant requested that the jury be instructed in scienter by telling them that the mere fact that a person is found to be in possession of a narcotic drug does not warrant sufficient evidence to warrant convicting a person of the crime of possession of that drug unless you believe without a doubt that the person knew that he was in possession of the said drug.

The other issue brought up by the appellant is the fact that the search of the apartment was illegal and that all of the evidence that was found should have been suppressed in the trial.

The court has reviewed the issues that have been raised by the defendant and finds the judgment as appealed from is reversed. The cause will be remanded for further proceedings to the trial court.

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