“Whose Drugs are These?”
It is a situation that plays out in many traffic stops where the police find drugs in a vehicle. There is a driver, multiple passengers, and illegal drugs located somewhere in the vehicle.
All occupants are out of the vehicle and the police are attempting to determine whose drugs they are. In this situation, the police might say the following: “Whose drugs are these? If nobody speaks up and takes ownership, then everyone is getting charged….”
What Happens When Police Find Drugs in a Car in Virginia?
You have probably heard something like this on TV or in the movies, and many people believe the law is that your mere presence in a vehicle can render you criminally responsible for any illegal substances found inside that vehicle. That is not the case in Virginia.
To be guilty of possession of any illegal drug, it must be proven that you had knowledge that the substance was present within the vehicle, that the substance was illegal, and that you exercised dominion and control over that substance.
The police are not asking the group of occupants who knew about the drugs because they believe that everyone is getting charged if nobody confesses to ownership. They are asking that question because this type of “constructive possession” case can be extremely difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in court without a statement of admission by one of the people.
Types of Drug Possession Charges in Virginia
There are two types of drug possession cases. There are actual possession cases, in which the police locate drugs on a person, and constructive possession cases, where the drugs are elsewhere, and the prosecution is trying to prove that the person knew about the presence of the drugs and exercised some level of control over them.
Being in a Car with Illegal Drugs is Not Enough for a Conviction
The law in Virginia is clear that mere ownership or occupancy of a vehicle is insufficient to prove that a person possessed an illegal substance found in that vehicle. The prosecution needs more to convict you.
How will the prosecution attempt to link one of the occupants to the drugs found in a vehicle? They will use statements indicating some level of knowledge that the substance was there, proximity of the person to the actual location of the drugs, other possessions of the person located near the illegal substance, and potentially forensic evidence as well.
How to Defend Yourself Against Drug Possession Charges in Virginia
Defending these constructive possession cases means using your constitutional right to have a case proven against you beyond a reasonable doubt to your full advantage.
This means drawing attention to the number of other occupants in the car and the different theories how those occupants could have been the person in control of the drugs. It means drawing attention to evidence demonstrating your lack of significant connection to the vehicle in question beyond just your presence inside of it.
It also means scrutinizing the level of police control over you from the initial stop of the vehicle, your detention on-scene during their investigation, your arrest, and any statements that you provide.
These issues directly implicate your Fourth and Fifth Amendment Rights under the United States Constitution, and if the police fail to gather enough evidence against you before proceeding to the next level of restraint of your liberty, then all evidence gathered against you after that point will be inadmissible in court.
Lawyer for Drug Possession Charges in Virginia
Just because you were in a car where the police found drugs does not mean that you are certain to be found guilty in court. Your rights in court are far stronger than your rights on the street when you were arrested. For more information and to consult with a lawyer in Alexandria or Leesburg, VA to help defend you against drug possession charges in Virginia, contact King Campbell Poretz & Mitchell today.