Can the police arrest someone over drugs that aren’t theirs?

On Behalf of | Mar 7, 2023 | Drug Crimes |

If a police officer finds mind-altering substances during a search, the people present are often quick to claim that they had no idea those items were there. The officers often arrest someone anyway and may push for their prosecution for possession or even more serious drug offenses. 

Often, those accused of a drug offense did not have the substance in their personal possession but were instead close to it. The owner or driver of a vehicle might face charges over drugs found in the trunk, while the tenant on the lease at an apartment could end up arrested for something a party guest brought. 

Can the state prosecute an individual for drugs that don’t belong to them? 

Prosecutors can build a case around constructive possession

An individual does not need to have a mind-altering substance in their hands or back pocket for the state to prosecute them for possession. Instead, the standard is that prosecutors need to show the individual was aware of the presence of those drugs and had control over them. 

Those two elements lead to claims of constructive possession and allow for someone’s prosecution even if the drugs didn’t technically belong to them. Factors including the difficulty locating the item or a lack of fingerprints connecting the driver to the drugs could help them challenge claims they knew about or had control over the drugs that the police found. 

Fighting back against the claim that someone knew about or had control over prohibited substances is a common approach when police find something close to a defendant but not in their physical possession. Learning more about strategies used to fight back against drug charges can help those accused of a possession offense.