Charges of Possession or Trafficking
When the police find drugs in a vehicle that they have searched they usually will charge the driver of the vehicle with possession or trafficking if it is a trafficking amount. If the drugs are not in your actual physical possession and you never admitted to the police that they were your drugs, you may have many defenses to obtain a dismissal of the charges or a not guilty verdict at trial..
Vehicle Search for Contraband or Drugs
The police usually search a vehicle that they have stopped when they say that they smell an odor of marijuana. Other reasons that they may search without a warrant is that they observed a weapon being concealed, observed drugs or contraband in plain view, or you yourself consented to a search. In the absence of a few exceptions, the police cannot search your vehicle without a warrant.
Determining Possession and Ownership
Should they search your vehicle and find narcotics when the narcotics were not in your physical possession, the State must prove that you “constructively” possessed the drugs. They must prove that you knew the drugs were there and that you had dominion and control over them.
Typically, this is when the drugs are in plain view like on the rear next to you and you are alone in a car that is registered to you. If the car wasn’t registered to you, or if someone else uses the car, or if there are other occupants of the car that also may have had access to possess the drugs, your case may be dismissed by the court.
Drugs in a Common or Shared Space
When more than one person occupies a common area and drugs are found in that area which nobody admits to possessing the court must dismiss the case because there is a reasonable hypothesis of innocence as to the person charged when anyone could have put the drugs there.
This is called “joint constructive possession”. For instance, if five (5) people live in a home and drugs are found in the master bedroom closet in dad’s shoe in the adult male’s side of the closet among his clothing and other personal effects, the court must still dismiss the case because the other four (4) people residing in the home could have put the drugs in the shoe if they all had equal access to that closet. The same thing applies in the situation of a car. Just because the drugs are found underneath the front passenger’s seat doesn’t mean that only the front passenger was the only person that had access to that area. Any of the occupants could have placed the drugs under the seat where the front passenger could not have seen them or known they were there.
It is important that you contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has experience in dealing with drug charges if you have a situation like the ones mentioned here.