In The Court of Appeals

The State, Respondent,


Christine Grove, Appellant,

Appeal From Georgetown County
 John M. Milling, Circuit Court Judge

Unpublished Opinion No. 2008-UP-278
Submitted May 1, 2008 – Filed May 27, 2008  


Appellate Defender Robert M. Pachak, of Columbia, for Appellant.

Attorney General Henry Dargan McMaster, Chief Deputy Attorney General John W. McIntosh, Asst. Deputy Atty. Gen. Salley W. Elliot, all of Columbia; and Solicitor John Gregory Hembree, of Conway, for Respondent.

PER CURIAM:  Christine Grove appeals her convictions for possession with intent to distribute marijuana and cocaine.  We affirm.


Deputy Sean Seebode observed a car backing out of a power substation at 3:30 a.m. on December 14, 2005.  When he pulled in to investigate, he observed two women in the vehicle: Grove, and the driver Bianca Ford.  Seebode inquired as to their reason for being at the substation so early in the morning, and the two replied they had stopped so Grove could go to the bathroom in the neighboring woods.  Seebode checked Ford’s driver’s license and called in Grove’s name and birthdate, as she did not have identification on her person.  While Seebode checked the identifications, Corporal Jennifer Flowers joined him at the scene.  Both Seebode and Flowers asked for permission to search the vehicle, and Ford verbally consented on each occasion. 

Once consent was given, Ford and Grove were then directed to exit the vehicle, and Flowers conducted an initial pat down.  Flowers’ subsequent search of the vehicle revealed a film canister containing three individually-wrapped bags of marijuana and six bags of cocaine located under the passenger seat, and five bags of marijuana beside the driver’s seat.  Grove and Ford were placed under arrest and taken into custody.  Thereafter, Flowers conducted a more thorough pat down and search incident to arrest of both women, finding $634 in cash on Grove.[1]

Grove was indicted for possession with intent to distribute marijuana and cocaine, and a jury trial was held.  After the State presented its case, Grove moved for a directed verdict, contending the State failed to show she had constructive possession of the drugs since she was a passenger in a car that belonged to Ford.  This motion was denied.  Grove presented no evidence in her defense and renewed her motion for directed verdict at the close of the case.  That motion was denied, and the jury found Grove guilty of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and marijuana.  She was sentenced to fifteen years imprisonment.  This appeal followed.


When considering a motion for directed verdict, the trial court is concerned with the existence or nonexistence of evidence, not its weight.  State v. Weston, 367 S.C. 279, 292, 625 S.E.2d 641, 648 (2006).  A defendant is entitled to a directed verdict when the State fails to present evidence of the offense charged.  Id.  When reviewing a denial of a directed verdict, an appellate court views the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the State.  Id.  If there is any direct evidence or any substantial circumstantial evidence reasonably tending to prove the guilt of the accused, the appellate court must find the case was properly submitted to the jury.  Id. at 292-93, 625 S.E.2d at 648.


Grove argues the trial court erred in denying her motion for directed verdict as the State failed to prove she had possession of the cocaine and marijuana that was found in the vehicle owned by her co-defendant.  We disagree.

A conviction of possession requires proof of actual or constructive possession of an illegal substance and knowledge of its presence.  State v. Muhammed, 338 S.C. 22, 26, 524 S.E.2d 637, 639 (Ct. App. 1999).  To establish constructive possession, the State must prove the defendant had dominion and control, or the right to exercise dominion and control, over an illegal substance.  State v. Heath, 370 S.C. 326, 329, 635 S.E.2d 18, 19 (2006).  This can be shown through circumstantial or direct evidence.  Id.  Here, a film canister containing individual bags of cocaine and marijuana was found just under the front lip of the passenger seat, an area easily accessible to Grove.  Additionally, a search of Grove’s person revealed $634 in cash, the existence of which, Flowers testified, when combined with individually packaged drugs, was often a good indication of drug distribution activity.  Furthermore, Grove was a close acquaintance of the owner of the vehicle, Ford, who testified the two had attended a bowling party and smoked marijuana earlier in the evening.

Viewing these facts in the light most favorable to the State, as we must under our standard of review, we find there exists sufficient evidence in the record to support the trial judge’s decision to submit the issue of actual or constructive possession to the jury.  Accordingly, the decision of the trial court is


HEARN, C.J., and SHORT, J., and KONDUROS, J., concur.

[1] Ford testified that the money was actually hers and Grove was just holding it for her.

[2] We decide this case without oral argument pursuant to Rule 215, SCACR.