Have you ever been pulled over while in someone else’s car? You may have thought that if you do not have anything illegal on you, then there is nothing for you to worry about. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
If drugs are found in the car, even without your knowledge of them being in the vehicle, you could potentially be in just as much trouble as the driver/owner of the vehicle.
The Supreme Court Case that Could Get You Arrested
In 2003, the Supreme Court case, Maryland v. Pringle, ruled that officers can rightfully arrest every person in a car where drugs are found and if probable cause exists. The officer(s) will have enough probable cause to arrest you just by simply being in close enough proximity to any drugs found in the vehicle.
Think you’re safe because the drugs were in the backseat and you were riding shotgun? Think again. Even if the cops find the drugs in the back, you can be charged with possession as a front-seat passenger due to something called constructive possession.
Actual Possession v. Constructive Possession
There are two types of possession that you should know: actual possession and constructive possession.
Actual possession means that you had physical and present possession over the drugs. The drugs are physically present on your person: jacket, pocket, purse, shoes or body. If you have been found with physical possession of drugs, the police will likely charge you.
Constructive possession means that there are signs indicating that you were somehow involved with the drugs by having knowledge or access to them. The drugs do not need to be physically found on you.
You might argue that you did not have knowledge of the drugs found in your friend’s car, trunk, or duffle bag. In the end, pleading ignorance probably won’t work. If you are in close enough proximity to the drugs, you will be held responsible for what’s in your immediate surroundings.
The cops can charge you with constructive possession if they find a link between you and the drugs in one of the following ways:
- The drugs are in plain view.
- The drugs are found in your personal items, such as a pocket or shoe.
- The drugs are found with your personal items, such as in a duffle bag that contains your clothes or toiletries, for example.
- The drugs are found on the same side of the car as you, or within your reach (also known as within your wingspan).
- The drugs are found within your immediate surroundings or proximity.
- You own the place, space or area where the drugs are discovered, such as a house, car or boat.
- You have control of the vehicle where the drugs were discovered.
How can you fight a drug possession charge?
A drug possession charge on your record can easily compromise your entire future. Convictions can affect current and future employment opportunities, family relationships, college prospects, and much more.
Fighting an actual possession charge
Trying to battle an actual physical possession charge is not easy. In fact, it is the more difficult possession charge of the two to fight because the drugs are found directly on your person, which makes the evidence against you condemning.
In an actual physical possession case, an experienced lawyer can help identify loopholes by fighting the validity of the cops’ stopping you or the legality of them searching your vehicle.
Fighting a constructive possession charge
With constructive possession, you will have a better chance of winning your case since the drugs are not found directly on your person. Meaning, law enforcement lacks concrete proof of you using the drugs or even knowing about their existence.
Generally, in a constructive possession case, the prosecutor has to prove that:
- You knew that the drugs were present.
- You had control or could have had control over the drugs.
- You knew that the drugs found were illegal.
Because these are difficult points for the prosecution to prove, your defense attorney has an opportunity to build a good defense for you and fight a stronger case.
Don’t get closed in by a drug possession charge. Get a good defense attorney.
A drug charge is serious business and can ruin your clean record and future opportunities. Contact an attorney as soon as possible if you find yourself in a situation that involves drugs.
Call Kulp & Elliott at 843-853-3310, or email us using our online form to speak with an attorney who knows how South Carolina drug charges work and can give you the best fighting chance for a bright future.