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Taylor v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Second Division

February 2, 2018

TAYLOR
v.
THE STATE.

          Miller, P. J., DOYLE, P. J., and REESE, J.

          Miller, Presiding Judge.

         Following a jury trial, Anthony Bernard Taylor was convicted of possession with intent to distribute crack-cocaine (OCGA § 16-13-30). Taylor moved for a new trial, which the trial court denied. On appeal, Taylor contends (1) the evidence was insufficient to sustain his drug conviction; and (2) the trial court abused its discretion in limiting his time for voir dire with certain prospective jurors. Discerning no error, we affirm.

         Viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, [1] the evidence shows that on the evening of October 14, 2009, four members of the Atlanta Police Department's Red Dog Unit, a specialty team which handles "street-level" drug dealers in high drug crime areas, were conducting an unrelated traffic stop when they heard loud screaming and banging coming from a house up the street.

         The officers moved toward the house, and discovered Taylor standing on the front porch. As one of the officers approached, Taylor threw something off the side of the porch that looked like a sandwich bag. One of the other officers went to the side of the home and retrieved a plastic bag with a white substance inside that the officers believed to be crack-cocaine. Officers also found a scale in Taylor's back pocket while searching him. Moreover, while the officers were waiting for a prisoner transport van to arrive, Taylor told one of the officers that although he sells marijuana on occasion, he does not sell cocaine. Taylor was subsequently arrested for possession of crack-cocaine and was charged with possession with intent to distribute.[2] Taylor was convicted of that charge, and this appeal followed the trial court's denial of Taylor's motion for new trial.[3]

         1. Taylor contends that the evidence was insufficient to convict him of possession with intent to distribute. We disagree.

         Although OCGA § 16-3-30 does not specify a quantity of drugs necessary to support a conviction for possession with intent to distribute

. . . mere possession of cocaine, without more, will not support a conviction for possession with intent to distribute. We have considered various kinds of additional evidence as proof of intent to distribute, including drug measuring and weighing paraphernalia, the packaging of the contraband, possession of certain amounts or denominations of currency, a prior possession with intent to distribute conviction, and expert testimony that the amount of contraband possessed was consistent with larger amounts usually held for sale rather than for personal use.

(Citation omitted.) Tate v. State, 230 Ga.App. 186, 187 (1) (b) (495 S.E.2d 658) (1998). Evidence concerning the quantity of drugs that is consistent with an intent to distribute can come in the form of the expert testimony of an officer whose drug training and experience has been tendered, even if the officer has not been specifically admitted as an expert. Burse v. State, 232 Ga.App. 729, 730 (1) (503 S.E.2d 638) (1998).

         Here, after recovering the bag dropped by Taylor, the drug officers weighed it with the substance inside and it weighed 3.6 grams. Subsequent testing by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Crime Lab revealed that the substance was 3.19 grams of crack-cocaine. While testifying, one of the officers opined that, based on his 11 years of training and experience, the quantity possessed by Taylor was not for personal use, but rather was for distribution. He further testified that each gram of crack-cocaine can provide roughly ten hits, meaning that the crack-cocaine possessed by Taylor amounted to more than thirty hits. Another officer from the drug unit who had been on the scene testified at trial that the cocaine was packaged the way it typically would be prior to being broken up for sale in individual pieces.

         Moreover, after Taylor was handcuffed, the drug unit officers discovered a mini digital scale in Taylor's back pocket. One of the officers testified at trial that based on his training, scales such as the one found on Taylor are often used in drug transactions to determine the weight of the drugs. There was also white residue on the scale that appeared to be crack cocaine to an officer who had seen the drug "thousands of times." Additionally, Taylor admitted to one of the drug officers that he sold marijuana.

         Here, Taylor does not dispute on appeal that he was in possession of the drugs, rather, he argues only that the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate an intent to distribute. We disagree. The evidence presented here was sufficient for the jury to infer Taylor's intent to distribute. First, an officer with years of experience testified that the amount of crack-cocaine possessed by Taylor was enough for thirty individual hits, which was consistent with distribution rather than personal use. Second, Taylor was in possession of a scale, which one of the drug officers testified, in his experience, is often used in drug transactions to weigh drugs. Moreover, the scale was coated in residue and a drug officer testified that based on his experience, that residue appeared to be crack-cocaine.[4] Third, Taylor admitted to police that he sold drugs, even though he denied selling crack-cocaine.

         Although the evidence in this case was circumstantial, it was sufficient to exclude every reasonable hypothesis except for Taylor's guilt. Tate, supra, 230 Ga.App. at 187 (1) (a). Therefore, we conclude that there was sufficient evidence to support Taylor's conviction.

         2. Taylor next contends that the trial court abused its discretion in limiting his time for voir dire with ...


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