Knowing your rights and standing up for them are two very different things. You probably know that the police can’t just search your stuff without probable cause, a warrant or permission. Still, during a traffic stop, compliance is often someone’s first instinct.
If an officer asks to search your vehicle, you might feel inclined to say yes. You know that you have nothing to hide, so agreeing seems like the best decision. Unfortunately, people who make this exact mistake can wind up arrested if police officers find something illegal in their vehicles.
Whether it is a marijuana seed stuck in the carpet or a small container with prescription pills that don’t belong to you, something that they find could lead them to think you have committed a drug crime. Can you get charged if police find someone else’s drugs in your vehicle?
Just because it’s in your car doesn’t mean it belongs to you
Sometimes, when police find drugs, it is obvious whom they belong to. If you have something illegal in your pocket, purse or backpack, it will be hard to convince law enforcement officers that you didn’t know it was there.
However, a vehicle is not the same as your body. Other people get in and out of the vehicle all the time, and you don’t always know what they bring with them. You may have even purchased the car used from someone, meaning whatever the cops found has been there for months or even years.
In order for cops to prosecute you for drugs they find in your vehicle but not on your person, they will need to establish constructive possession.
How does constructive possession work?
If police officers find drugs in your vehicle and want to charge you for them, they will try to prove that you knew the drugs were in the vehicle and that you had control over them. Sometimes, fingerprints on skin cells on packaging might help build their case.
However, you could easily have left fingerprints on a medicine container when reaching under your seat for your dropped sunglasses. You may not have even realized what you touched when you were fumbling around under there.
Discovery and a careful review of the evidence the state will use in their case against you could play a crucial role in your defense strategy when facing charges because of someone else’s drugs.