SC Supreme Court: “Strong Evidence” Charge is Erroneous

State v. Cheeks

Cheeks was convicted of trafficking crack cocaine. On appeal, Cheeks argues that (1) the search warrant authorized in his case was defective, and (2) the trial judge’s “strong evidence” charge was erroneous.

The Court quickly disposes of the search warrant issue, finding no error.

Turning to the “strong evidence” charge, the Court finds that the instruction is erroneous. Specifically, the charge states that “[a]ctual knowledge of the presence of crack cocaine isĀ strong evidence of a defendant’s intent to control its disposition or use.” The Court holds that this language “largely negates the mere presence charge, and erroneously conveys that a mere permissible evidentiary inference is, instead, a proposition of law.” The Court instructs trial courts to refrain from providing this instruction in the future.

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