What happens if police officers find drugs during a traffic stop?

On Behalf of | Feb 22, 2024 | Drug Crimes |

Traffic stops usually lead to someone receiving a ticket, but occasionally they result in an arrest. Florida police officers often look eagerly for evidence of criminal activity that could justify criminal charges instead of just a traffic citation. They might even ask to search someone’s vehicle during a seemingly minor traffic stop and then arrest someone based on what they find.

Although motorists usually want to show their compliance during a traffic stop, they need to assert themselves when officers make requests that could infringe on their rights. Asking to search a vehicle could set someone up for criminal prosecution.

Many people drive used vehicles and often transport others in their cars. Florida drivers may have no forewarning about the drugs that police officers might uncover in their trunks or find crammed in between the seats in the back of the vehicle. What happens if police officers locate prohibited drugs during a vehicle search?

The state may file constructive possession charges

The easiest way to accuse someone of a drug offense is to catch them while they are in actual possession of the drug. Having controlled substances in one’s pockets or in a backpack makes it very clear that someone knew about and had control over those drugs.

However, state prosecutors may also pursue charges when someone is close to the drugs that law enforcement officers locate. Officers may ask everyone in the vehicle about the drugs. If someone admits to owning the drugs the police officers found, they may face arrest and prosecution. If everyone denies knowledge of the drugs or claims to have had no control over them, then the officer might arrest either the person closest to the drugs or the person who owns the vehicle.

In both cases, the state’s allegations against the hypothetical individual largely depend on claims of constructive possession. Prosecutors need to establish that someone knew about the drugs and had control over what happened to them. The placement of the drugs in a vehicle and forensic evidence, such as fingerprints on the packaging, could help someone undermine those allegations.

At the end of the day, learning more about how Florida justifies drug charges, and seeking legal guidance accordingly, may benefit those recently arrested during a traffic stop.