Your friend is giving you a ride home in the early hours of Sunday morning. Your friend runs a stop sign right in front of a police officer. The police officer conducts a traffic stop; the police officer tells you and your friend that he smells marijuana coming from the vehicle and that he saw both of you making suspicious movements after he turned his lights on. The police officer asks you and your friend to exit the vehicle and proceeds to search the vehicle. The police officer finds marijuana under the front passenger seat, which is right where you were sitting. You tell the police officer you did not know it was there; regardless, he charges you with possession of marijuana. Are you really guilty of possession of marijuana?If taken to trial, the State would have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knowingly or intentionally possessed marijuana, a controlled substance, and that you knew the possessed substance was marijuana, a controlled substance, before you could be found guilty of this crime. To prove that you possessed the marijuana, the State can either show you were in actual possession of the marijuana or constructive possession of the marijuana. Actual possession of marijuana means direct physical control over the marijuana. Constructive possession of marijuana is both knowledge of the marijuana and the authority or right to control it. Since the marijuana was not found on your person, the State would have to prove that you constructively possessed the marijuana. At trial, the State will argue that several factors show that you constructively possessed the marijuana. Some of these factors include:
(1) any incriminating statements you made;
(2) any incriminating actions you made;
(3) whether the marijuana was near or among your personal belongings;
(4) whether your fingerprints were on the package containing the marijuana;
(5) whether the marijuana was found on the same side of the vehicle or immediately next to you;
(6) whether you were the owner of the vehicle;
(7) whether the marijuana was in plain view.
The State will also highlight any other circumstances linking you to the marijuana.
Conversely, you can use these same factors to show you were not in possession of the marijuana. For instance, you can argue that the vehicle was not your vehicle; that you did not have exclusive control of the vehicle; that you were only getting a ride in the vehicle; that you did not know that the marijuana was under your seat; and that the marijuana was not in plain view. Ultimately, the jury will decide whether the evidence shows beyond a reasonable doubt that you constructively possessed the marijuana and whether you knew the controlled substances was marijuana, a controlled substance. If they do, you will be guilty of this charge.
If you are charged with possession of marijuana or any other criminal charge, it is recommended to seek out a trusted attorney to represent you and to determine your possible defenses.
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