While driving, you get pulled over on a traffic stop. Something suspicious alerts the law enforcement officer, who searches your car. The officer finds drugs inside a carrying bag that your passenger has.
Although the drugs were not in your possession, you – as the driver — may find yourself facing criminal charges. The same may be said if you borrowed someone else’s car and authorities discover drugs in the trunk or glove compartment. All without your knowledge of the drugs even being there.
Prosecutors must prove the driver knew of presence
Many people assume that someone cannot possess drugs if the drugs do not belong to them. On the other hand, others assume that if authorities find drugs in a person’s car then that person is guilty of possession. Each of these examples is incorrect.
In order to secure a conviction, prosecutors must prove certain things, including that the drugs were clearly in the driver’s possession and that the driver knew that the drugs were present. However, if the controlled substance was in the passenger’s carrying bag, prosecutors must prove that the driver knew about the drugs had some type of control of the items.
It is not uncommon for authorities to arrest drivers in situations where the likelihood of a drug possession conviction is difficult.
Passengers, too, can find themselves in legal trouble. For example, if authorities find drugs underneath the front passenger seat – which you sit in – you have a strong likelihood of facing a drug possession charge.
Protect yourself without saying too much
Every scenario is different. However, if you find yourself arrested and charged in similar circumstances, you need to protect yourself. Say little other than basic information to the arresting officer. Do not say anything that may incriminate you. It is also a good idea to seek legal advice.