1. “Whether prior possession and use of contraband may be admitted to prove knowledge of contraband and intent to possess contraband under Rules 403 and 404(b) of the Texas Rules of Evidence.”
2. “Whether prior possession and use of contraband may be admitted under Rules 403 and 404(b) of the Texas Rules of Evidence to rebut the defensive theory that the defendant lacked knowledge of the presence of contraband.”
3. “Whether prior possession and use of contraband may be admitted under Rules 403 and 404(b) of the Texas Rules of Evidence to prove the identity of the person who possessed the contraband.”
4. “Whether prior possession and use of contraband may be admitted under the doctrine of chances.”
Valadez was the backseat passenger in a car pulled over for a traffic stop. The officer smelled marijuana as he approached the car, and it was noticeably stronger in the backseat. A utility door in the middle of the backseat opened into the trunk where officers found 18 pounds of marijuana. Valadez was prosecuted for marijuana possession. The driver testified Valadez did not know about the marijuana. Over Valadez’s objections, the State introduced nine of his prior drug convictions, including eight for marijuana possession.
On appeal, Valadez argued the extraneous offenses were inadmissible under Rule 404(b) and 403 and portrayed him as a habitual marijuana possessor and cocaine dealer. The court of appeals held the offenses were sufficiently similar to the one on trial and that it was no abuse of discretion to admit them to prove intent and knowledge and to rebut his innocent passenger defense. It also referenced the doctrine of chances and found no “clear disparity” between prejudice and probative value.
Valadez argues this evidence was just character propensity, i.e., Valadez must have known of the marijuana because he has a drug history. He complains the evidence confused two different kinds of knowledge: his familiarity with illegal drugs and his awareness of the marijuana in the trunk. He also argues it misled the jury to focus on his propensity for drug possession instead of his guilt for the offense on trial.