Can the police charge you over drugs hidden in your car?

If you agreed to let the police search your vehicle, you probably assumed they wouldn’t find anything illegal in it. You knew you had not broken the law, so you didn’t hesitate to authorize a search. You probably expected that permitting the search would mean you could move on with your day sooner.

However, the police officers going through your vehicle found something that you didn’t expect. Maybe it was a small plastic bag with both marijuana and a glass pipe sealed inside. Perhaps it was a container of prescription medication.

All of the sudden, what had seemed like a minor inconvenience suddenly became a life-altering moment. You wind up in handcuffs and are now facing criminal charges. Although you assert that you did not know those items were in your vehicle, the prosecutor moves forward with a criminal case against you. Part of that case will involve proving constructive possession.

What is constructive possession?

Constructive possession is the legal term for the reasonable assumption that someone knew about it and had control over that physical property. The state treats constructive possession in the same way it does actual possession, meaning having something on your person.

When police officers don’t find something in your pockets or otherwise on your person, you may be able to challenge that you knew about those illegal items or had any control over what happened to them. A lack of fingerprint or genetic evidence, obvious signs of age-related degradation or an item hidden in a location you couldn’t access could all affect claims of constructive possession.

While your vehicle may belong to you and you are the only one who regularly drives it, that doesn’t mean you are the only one with access to it now or in the recent past. If you purchased the vehicle used, the previous owner or their passengers could have left any number of questionable items behind in the vehicle. The items found could belong to anyone who has worked on or ridden in your vehicle.

There are other possible defense strategies

Claiming you didn’t know that the drugs were in your vehicle is only one possible defense. You could challenge the chain of custody or the analysis of the evidence. If the police officer did not have a lawful reason to pull you over, that could play a role in your defense as well.

Reviewing the evidence against you can give you an idea of the best way to fight against pending drug charges.