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State v. Hynson

Court of Common Pleas of Delaware, New Castle

December 27, 2013

STATE OF DELAWARE,
v.
KEVIN HYNSON, Defendant.

Submitted: December 5, 2013

John S. Taylor, Esquire, Deputy Attorney General, Attorney for the State of Delaware

Jonathan Layton, Esquire Layton & Associates, P.A. Attorney for Defendant

DECISION AFTER TRIAL

RENNIE, J.

On July 2, 2010, Defendant Kevin Hynson ("Hynson") was issued a citation for possession of marijuana in violation of 16 Del C. § 4764, and possession of drug paraphernalia in violation of 16 Del C. § 4771.

A non-jury trial was held on December 5, 2013. After each party presented its case-in-chief, the State indicated that it was not pursuing the possession of marijuana charge. At the conclusion of trial, the Court reserved decision. This is the Court's decision after trial.

FACTS

The sole witness to testify at trial was Officer Timothy Hoffecker, who has been employed by the Middletown Police Department since 2008. Officer Hoffecker testified that on July 2, 2010, he was working a proactive patrol assignment geared towards the control of problem areas. While patrolling the area of Middletown Village, Officer Hoffecker observed a silver Taurus driven by an individual who was not wearing a seatbelt. Officer Hoffecker conducted a traffic stop of the vehicle. Upon making contact with the driver, Officer Hoffecker observed Hynson and another individual in the back seat of the vehicle. Officer Hoffecker had knowledge of all three occupants of the vehicle, because he had come in contact with them previously.

Officer Hoffecker detected an odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle and asked Hynson to step out of the car. As he exited the vehicle, Hynson, without solicitation, stated that he had a digital scale in his pocket that he used to weigh marijuana. Hynson also stated that he had marijuana in the ash tray in the center console of the vehicle. Officer Hoffecker retrieved the digital scale from Hynson's pants pocket, and he observed what appeared to be marijuana residue on the scale itself. After searching the vehicle, Officer Hoffecker located a small baggie that contained a plantlike substance consistent with marijuana behind the ashtray in the center console. Officer Hoffecker placed these items in Middletown Police Envelopes, which were then locked into evidence lockers and logged in a custodian log.

At trial, the State moved the digital scale into evidence without objection. Officer Hoffecker testified that in his training and experience, buyers and sellers of drugs typically use scales like the one recovered from Hynson to weigh their product. Officer Hoffecker testified that the digital scale recovered from Hynson had a green flakey substance, which Officer Hoffecker found to be consistent with marijuana.

In closing argument, Hynson argued that the State did not introduce the marijuana, and asked for a dismissal as to the possession of marijuana charge. The State acknowledged that it was abandoning the possession of marijuana charge.

Hynson also argued that the only evidence offered by the State to indicate that the scale was used with a controlled substance was the presence of a de minimis amount of a green substance, which was never tested. Hynson maintained that the State did not meet its burden because it failed to establish that the scale was, in fact, intended for use in weighing a controlled substance.

DISCUSSION

Pursuant to 16 Del C. § 4771(a), "it is unlawful for any person to use, or possess with intent to use, drug paraphernalia, "[1] including "[s]cales and balances used, intended for use or designed for use in weighing or measuring controlled substances."[2] To find a defendant guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia under § 4771, the State need not prove that an illegal substance was on the paraphernalia.[3]

Officer Hoffecker testified that, in his training and experience, scales such as the one in the possession of Hynson, are typically used to weigh drugs. The scale that was recovered from the pocket of Hynson was designed to look like a CD case, and it contained a green, flakey substance that Officer Hoffecker testified was, in his training and experience, consistent with marijuana. Moreover, Officer Hoffecker testified that the witness, without being questioned, acknowledged that the scale was used to weigh marijuana. The Court found Officer Hoffecker's testimony to be credible. After consideration of the testimony of Officer Hoffecker, the Court finds that the State produced enough evidence to meet its burden of proving, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Hynson was illegally in possession of a scale intended or designed for use in weighing a controlled substance.

CONCLUSION

The Court finds that the State has presented sufficient evidence to find Hynson guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia in violation of 16 Del. C. § 4771. Thus, the Court finds Defendant Kevin Hynson GUILTY. This Judicial Officer shall retain jurisdiction of this case and will schedule it forthwith for sentencing.

IT IS SO ORDERED.


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