District Court, Salt Lake Department The Honorable Katie
Bernards-Goodman No. 151903001
Knell, Attorney for Appellant
Simarjit S. Gill and Richard J. Pehrson, Attorneys for
Diana Hagen authored this Opinion, in which Judges Kate A.
Toomey and David N. Mortensen concurred.
Talea Louise Holland appeals her conviction for possession of
a dangerous weapon by a restricted person. She contends that
the State presented insufficient evidence to establish that
she was a restricted person, namely an unlawful user of a
controlled substance. We affirm.
A police officer responded to a local hardware store to
investigate a report of retail theft by Holland. After
speaking with Holland and the loss prevention employee, the
officer arrested Holland for shoplifting. In performing a
search incident to that arrest, the officer found several
suspicious items in Holland's purse. Specifically, the
officer found brass knuckles and a small, black kit that
contained a pick and two spoons covered with brown residue.
Relying on sixteen years of experience as a police officer
and his drug-specific training, the officer believed that the
pick was a type commonly associated with drug use and that
the brown residue on the spoons was consistent with heroin.
Based on "the way she looked that day" and her
"demeanor," the officer suspected that Holland was
"struggling" and asked her whether "she had a
problem with drugs." According to the officer, Holland
responded that "she is a drug user," "she was
having some issues with it," and she had "been
struggling to control her addiction."
The State charged Holland with possession of a dangerous
weapon by a restricted person, possession of drug
paraphernalia, and retail theft. With respect to the
possession of a dangerous weapon charge, the State contended
that the brass knuckles in Holland's purse constituted a
"dangerous weapon" and that she was a restricted
person based on her status as an "unlawful user of a
controlled substance." At Holland's request, the
court bifurcated the trial on that count. The jury would
consider whether Holland intentionally or knowingly possessed
a dangerous weapon. If it found that she had, the district
court would then determine whether she was an unlawful user
of a controlled substance restricted from possessing such a
At the conclusion of trial, the jury found Holland guilty of
possession of a dangerous weapon, possession of drug
paraphernalia, and retail theft. The district court then
considered the bifurcated element and found beyond a
reasonable doubt that Holland was an unlawful user of a
controlled substance. In reaching this conclusion, the
district court focused on Holland's statement that she
was "struggling" with her drug addiction, which the
court interpreted as currently relapsing or using controlled
substances. In its oral ruling, the court also pointed to the
drug paraphernalia in Holland's purse as evidence that
she was currently using drugs. The court entered a judgment
of conviction on all three counts.
AND STANDARD OF REVIEW
Holland initially raised three issues on appeal, contending
that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to
prove three elements beyond a reasonable doubt: (1) that the
brass knuckles were a "dangerous weapon" as defined
in Utah Code section 76-10-501(6); (2) that the black kit
constituted drug paraphernalia under the factors in Utah Code
section 58-37a-4; and (3) that she was an "unlawful user
of a controlled ...