Empower Yourself, Know Your Rights

  1. Home
  2.  | 
  3. Drug Offenses
  4.  | What if police officers find drugs in a vehicle or at a party?

What if police officers find drugs in a vehicle or at a party?

On Behalf of | May 14, 2024 | Drug Offenses |

The average drug possession case in Missouri is a simple matter. Police officers arrest someone after finding contraband in their possession. Prosecutors bring charges against those who possess prohibited drugs or prescription drugs without a medical recommendation.

There is usually a very clear connection between the person accused of breaking the law and the drugs that the police officers located. However, not every drug possession case is as straightforward as the average charge. Police officers may have a hard time determining who the drugs actually belong to in some scenarios.

Perhaps they found a baggie of cocaine under the seat of a vehicle that had four occupants. Maybe they show up to address noise violations at a party, only to find drugs openly on display. What happens when police officers find drugs that are not in someone’s direct possession?

The state pursues constructive possession charges

Missouri has more than one definition of possession in its drug statutes. Obviously, the state can bring charges against someone accused of possessing controlled substances. Prosecutors can also theoretically bring charges against someone who the state alleges had control over drugs that were not in their immediate possession.

The term constructive possession refers to a scenario in which there is reason to believe that someone knew about the presence of drugs and had control over what happened to them. If police officers find drugs in the vehicle, they might assume that the driver or owner of the vehicle was aware of the presence of those drugs and had control over them. They might also come to suspect the person physically closest to the location where they found the drugs in the vehicle.

Similar rules might apply at a party. The owner or tenant of the residential property could be the one accused of the possession offense. The host of the party might also be the first party that officers suspect. Other times, someone’s proximity to the drugs or allegations made by others at the party might give police officers reason to accuse a specific party guest of constructive possession.

Individuals accused of a drug offense based on constructive possession may have a few options available when developing a criminal defense strategy. There are many ways to raise questions about allegations of constructive possession including establishing a lack of forensic evidence or connecting another person to those drugs.

Understanding the laws that apply when someone faces drug possession charges might help people plan an appropriate defense strategy. Those who choose to respond assertively to criminal allegations can potentially avoid the penalties that the state might impose after a conviction.