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Name: People v. Covarrubias
Case #: D058298
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 12/20/2011

The trial court erred in admitting expert testimony regarding the practices of drug trafficking organizations where there was no evidence appellant was a member of such an organization. Appellant was apprehended at the San Ysidro border crossing when authorities found 193 pounds of marijuana in his truck. He was found guilty of possession of marijuana for sale and transportation of marijuana. Appellant contended the trial court erred in admitting, over defense objection, expert testimony regarding the structure and operations of drug trafficking organizations. The Court of Appeal discussed federal cases which found such evidence inadmissible under the federal equivalent of Evidence Code section 352, finding them reasoning persuasive and consistent with California law. Here, the evidence should have been excluded under Evidence Code section 352 because there was no evidence that appellant was connected to any drug organization, nor was he charged with a drug trafficking conspiracy. However, admission of this testimony was harmless because there was otherwise sufficient evidence to convict.