June 19, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: People v. Griffiths

on June 10, 2010.

Distribution—Methamphetamine—Prior Bad Acts—Res Gestae Evidence—C.R.E. 404(b)—Drug Offender Surcharge—Inability to Pay—Incarceration.

Defendant Griffiths appealed the judgment of conviction entered on a jury verdict finding her guilty of distributing a schedule II controlled substance (methamphetamine), unlawfully possessing one gram or less of a schedule IV controlled substance (alprazolam), and possessing drug paraphernalia. She also appealed the statutory drug offender surcharge imposed. The judgment and sentence were affirmed.

During a drug task force sting operation, a police informant gave L.B. $175 to purchase methamphetamine. L.B. purchased two packages of methamphetamine from defendant for $120. Both L.B. and defendant were arrested, and the police recovered from defendant’s home two tablets of alprozolam; two syringes with blood in them; two radio scanners; and a spiral notebook containing phone numbers (commonly known as a pay-owe book).

Defendant contended the evidence was insufficient to support her distribution conviction. L.B.’s testimony, if believed, and the evidence recovered from defendant’s home—including the bills that matched the serial numbers provided to the informant—were sufficient to support defendant’s convictions.

Defendant also contended that her right to a fair and impartial jury was violated by the introduction of irrelevant and prejudicial prior bad acts. The evidence of the spiral notebook found at defendant’s home helped provide the jury a more complete understanding of the events surrounding the crime. It was relevant to show that defendant knowingly possessed the drug paraphernalia and alprazolam, and knowingly sold or distributed methamphetamine. Further, the danger of unfair prejudice did not outweigh the evidence’s relevance. Therefore, the notebook constituted admissible res gestae evidence, which is not subject to C.R.E. 404(b). Further, the prosecutor did not violate the court’s previous order excluding prior bad acts, because he did not elicit testimony suggesting that defendant had engaged in prior drug distribution and use.

Defendant further contended that the trial court erred in imposing the drug offender surcharge due to inability to pay, because she was unemployed and would be incarcerated. Incarceration does not necessarily render a defendant unable to pay the statutorily mandated drug offender surcharge. Because the record supports the court’s determination that defendant had not met her burden of proving she was unable to pay, and CRS § 16-18.5-106(1) accounts for defendant’s incarceration in calculating her ability to pay the surcharge, the trial court’s order was not disturbed on review. The judgment and sentence were affirmed.

This summary is published here courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer. Other summaries by the Colorado Court of Appeals on June 10, 2010, can be found here.

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