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Martha Rosario Gonzales v. State of Arkansas
Case Number: 2019 Ark. App. 321
Judge: RAYMOND R. ABRAMSON
Court: ARKANSAS COURT OF APPEALS
Plaintiff's Attorney: Jason Michael Johnson, Ass’t Att’y Gen
Defendant's Attorney: Jarred W. Kibbey
On March 27, 2018, the State charged Gonzales with possession of
methamphetamine with the purpose to deliver, possession of hydrocodone, possession of
drug paraphernalia, and possession of marijuana. On July 26, the State amended the
criminal information to charge Gonzales as a habitual offender pursuant to Arkansas Code
Annotated section 5-4-501(b) (Repl. 2013).
The court held a jury trial on August 7. At trial, Bryan Stanley, a narcotics detective
with the Fort Smith Police Department, testified that he arranged for a confidential
informant to engage in a controlled buy of methamphetamine from Rodney Stringer. He
explained that the informant contacted Stringer and that Stringer sent Gonzales to
perform the transaction. Stanley testified that Gonzales met the informant and that he
(Stanley) monitored their meeting by audio feed. He explained that Gonzales and the
informant discussed further purchases of methamphetamine. He stated that after the
meeting, another officer detained and arrested Gonzales in her car. Stanley then went to
the traffic stop and spoke with Gonzales. He explained that he asked Gonzales whether she
had anything that she did not want “to get caught with at jail,” and Gonzales retrieved
several items from her pants.
Sergeant Wayne Barnett testified that he stopped Gonzales in her car after the
controlled buy. He explained that he immediately removed the passenger from the car and
secured him. He testified that he located a purse in the driver’s side of the car where
Gonzales was sitting and that the purse contained a bag of marijuana and empty Ziploc
bags. He further testified that Gonzales retrieved hydrocodone pills and methamphetamine
from her pants. Barnett stated that in his experience, the bags found on Gonzales were the
type used to package illegal drugs.
Chris George, an employee of the Fort Smith Police Department vice and narcotics
unit, testified that he assisted in the traffic stop of Gonzales. He stated that money found
on Gonzales matched money that was given to the confidential informant for the
controlled buy. He further testified that a leafy substance and a smoking pipe were found
in Gonzales’s purse.
Christy Williford, a forensic chemist with the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory,
testified that she tested the substances found on Gonzales and that the substances included
.7062 grams of marijuana, a bag of 4.2573 grams of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, a
bag of 4.2658 grams of hydrocodone and acetaminophen, and 11.7356 grams of
methamphetamine. She noted that hydrocodone and methamphetamine are schedule II
controlled substances and that marijuana is a schedule VI controlled substance.
Paul Smith, the drug-task-force commander for Sebastian and Crawford Counties,
testified that the amount of methamphetamine found on Gonzales—11.7356 grams—is not
an amount usually seen for personal use; rather, the amount is associated with a “street
After the State rested, Gonzales moved for a directed verdict on only the charge of
possession of methamphetamine with the purpose to deliver. She argued that the State
presented insufficient evidence to show that she had the purpose to deliver the
methamphetamine. She pointed out that she was not found with scales or ledgers. She
further asserted that the empty bags could have belonged to the passenger in the car rather
than her. The court denied the motion. Gonzales presented no evidence. The jury
convicted Gonzales of all charges.
At the sentencing phase of trial, the State introduced certified copies of Gonzales’s
four prior felony convictions.1 Gonzales was thereafter sentenced as a habitual offender to
fifty years’ imprisonment for possession of methamphetamine with the purpose to deliver,
fifteen years’ imprisonment for possession of hydrocodone, five years’ imprisonment for
possession of drug paraphernalia, and one year in the county jail for possession of
marijuana. The court ordered the sentences to run concurrently. This no-merit appeal
A request to withdraw on the ground that the appeal is wholly without merit shall
be accompanied by a brief including an abstract and addendum. Furo v. State, 2018 Ark.
App. 23 (citing Ark. Sup. Ct. R. 4-3(k)(1)). The brief shall contain an argument section that
consists of a list of all rulings adverse to the defendant made by the circuit court on all
objections, motions, and requests made by either party with an explanation as to why each
adverse ruling is not a meritorious ground for reversal. Id. (citing Eads v. State, 74 Ark. App.
363, 47 S.W.3d 918 (2001)). This framework ensures that indigents are afforded their
constitutional rights. Id. (citing Campbell v. State, 74 Ark. App. 277, 47 S.W.3d 915 (2001)).
In furtherance of the goal of protecting these constitutional rights, it is the duty of both
1The convictions are from Mesa County, Colorado.
counsel and this court to perform a full examination of the proceedings as a whole to
decide if an appeal would be wholly frivolous. Id.
In compliance with the directives in Anders and Rule 4-3(k)(1), counsel contends
that he has thoroughly examined the circuit court record of this proceeding and
found no error that would support an appeal. Counsel asserts that there was only one
unfavorable ruling for Gonzales—the denial of her directed-verdict motion for the charge of
possession of methamphetamine with the purpose to deliver.
This court treats a motion for a directed verdict as a challenge to the sufficiency of
the evidence. Craven v. State, 2019 Ark. App. 271. The test for determining sufficiency of
the evidence is whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence, direct or
circumstantial; substantial evidence is evidence forceful enough to compel a conclusion
one way or the other beyond suspicion or conjecture. Caldwell v. State, 2009 Ark. App. 526,
334 S.W.3d 82. Evidence is viewed in the light most favorable to the State; only evidence
that supports a verdict is considered. Id. Arkansas Code Annotated section 5-64-420(a)
(Repl. 2016) states that it is unlawful for a person to possess methamphetamine with the
purpose to deliver it. The purpose to deliver may be shown by any of the following factors:
(1) The person possesses the means to weigh, separate or package methamphetamine or cocaine; or
(2) The person possesses a record indicating a drug-related transaction; or
(3) The methamphetamine or cocaine is separated and packaged in a manner to facilitate delivery; or
(4) The person possesses a firearm that is in the immediate physical control of the person at the time of the possession of methamphetamine or cocaine; or
(5) The person possesses at least two (2) other controlled substances in any amount; or
(6) Other relevant and admissible evidence that contributes to the proof that a person’s purpose was to deliver methamphetamine or cocaine.
Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-420(a)(1)–(6); King v. State, 2014 Ark. App. 81, 432 S.W.3d 127.
In his brief, counsel adequately explains why the circuit court’s denial of Gonzales’s
directed-verdict motion was correct. We agree with counsel that the officers’ testimony
concerning the controlled buy and the subsequent traffic stop provides substantial
evidence to support Gonzales’s conviction of possession of methamphetamine with the
purpose to deliver and that there are no nonfrivolous grounds for an appeal on this point.
In her pro se points, Gonzales asserts that she received illegal sentences for her
convictions of possession of methamphetamine with the purpose to deliver and possession
of hydrocodone. Gonzales is incorrect. An illegal sentence is one that the circuit court is
not authorized to impose. Brown v. State, 85 Ark. App. 382, 155 S.W.3d 22 (2004). In this
case, Gonzales’s sentences were authorized pursuant to the habitual-offenders statute.
Specifically, the habitual-offenders statute provides that a person previously convicted of
four or more felonies is subject to a sentencing range of six to sixty years for a Class A
felony and a sentencing range of three to thirty years for a Class C felony. Ark. Code Ann.
§ 5-4-501(b)(2)(B) & (D).
Here, Gonzales’s conviction of possession of methamphetamine with the purpose to
deliver is a Class A felony, and her conviction of possession of hydrocodone is a Class C
felony. See Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-420(b)(3) (providing that possession of
methamphetamine with the purpose to deliver is a Class A felony if the person possessed
more than 10 grams but less than 200 grams of methamphetamine); Ark. Code Ann. § 5
64-419(b)(2)(B) (providing that possession of more than 2 grams but less than 28 grams of a
schedule II controlled substance is a Class C felony). Thus, her sentences of fifty years’
imprisonment for possession of methamphetamine with the purpose to deliver and fifteen
years’ imprisonment for possession of hydrocodone are authorized pursuant to the
habitual-offenders statute and are not illegal sentences.
Outcome: Affirmed; motion granted.