Can I Be Arrested for Drugs That Aren’t Mine?
There are certain crimes that are more complicated to address, but perhaps some of the most difficult are when you feel you’ve been wrongly accused. This can happen when people are charged with drug-related crimes, even when the drugs didn’t belong to them. If you’ve found yourself in a situation similar to this, you’re likely wondering what happens next. You need to seek legal help.
To speak with a skilled criminal defense attorney, call us at the Law Offices of D. D. Archer, PA. to schedule a consultation and start working on your defense. From our offices in Clermont, Florida we can help those throughout the region in Polk County, Lake County, Sumter County, and Seminole County.
In cases like this, many defendants think all they need to do is prove the drugs weren’t theirs, and then they’ll be acquitted on all charges. The reality is much more complex.
There is a legal doctrine, constructive possession, that states if you’re found with drugs in your possession—even if they’re not yours—you may still be held legally responsible for them if it can be proved you had “actual control” over them. For example, if you live in a house with a roommate who hides drugs in your dresser, and they’re later found by law enforcement, you may be charged with drug possession because they were in your room. Conversely, if the only drugs found were in your roommate’s room, you’d be less likely to see a drug charge because it would be harder for you to be “in control” of them.
Another common situation where this could happen with a complete stranger would be with someone who drives a taxi or for a car service like Lyft or Uber. Imagine a driver picking up passengers. These passengers put their suitcases in the back of the car and set their bags on the passenger seat of the car. The car is then pulled over by the police who find drugs in the bags inside the car and then arrest both the passengers and the driver because they both had control over the drugs and can therefore be charged under the constructive possession rule. Of course, the driver (or innocent roommate) can and should contest this charge, but it should only be done with the help of a skilled attorney.
Know or Should Have Known
There are two main things the prosecution must prove for a successful constructive possession conviction.
First, they must prove you had or could have had actual control over them. This generally means that the drugs need to be on your person (such as in your pocket or in a bag you’re carrying), or near enough to you that you could have control over them easily. This could mean they’re in your bedroom, or on your side of the vehicle like in a console within arm's reach. This requirement is open to interpretation though, and you can still face charges like this if an officer found drugs in the trunk of your car.
The second thing the state needs to show is that you knew about the drugs or should have known about them. This, too, is a vague rule that can be interpreted in many ways. For example, if you’re walking with a friend whom you know to be a habitual drug user and she asks you to hold a bag for her but won’t tell you what’s inside, a judge may say that a reasonable person would assume the bag contained drugs. By taking the bag, you could be guilty of constructive possession. In another scenario, if you have a new roommate whom you just met, and then the police found drugs he’d hidden in your garage, you’re less likely to be charged with constructive possession because it's more likely you didn’t know or even could have known about them.
When you work with a drug crimes attorney, they diligently strive to uncover and examine all potential pieces of evidence that could be used to help or hurt your case. When doing this, they’ll also look for common incriminating circumstances that may work against you if you intend to plead not guilty. This could include any of the following circumstances:
the drugs being in plain site for anyone to see;
the drugs being physically on your person or in your bedroom;
the drugs being on the driver’s side of the car;
whether you had other drug-related paraphernalia in your possession;
and/or an officer observing suspicious behavior when the search is underway.
Experienced Guidance Every Step of the Way
All drug crimes should be defended by an experienced lawyer, whether you believe you are innocent or guilty. If you believe you’ve been arrested for drugs that aren’t yours, it’s important to have trusted legal guidance on your side. Reach out to our drug crimes attorneys at the Law Offices of D. D. Archer, PA. in Clermont, Florida today.