What You Should Do If Your Teenager Gets Pulled Over With Friends Who Have Drugs In Their Car

Is Your Loved One Guilty By Association?

Say your teen is hanging out with friends of her. One of them offers to give her a ride home. However, the friend gets pulled over for speeding because he was driving too fast. At least it was not a DUI offense in Houston, or not yet.

What began as such an ordinary traffic stop starts to escalate. The driving seems very nervous, which causes the officer to suspect something else is going on. The officer starts to ask questions. Although teens are not stupid, they can’t outsmart a police officer. Eventually the officer “convinces” the scared teenager to allow them to search the car and their purses.

The officer then discovers illegal drugs in the car’s console. The driver insists they are not his drugs and blames your daughter for them, stating she must have put the drugs in the console when while he wasn’t looking. So the officer makes the decision to arrest everybody.

Dangers Involved With “Joint Possession”

Maybe you think it is simply a misunderstanding. You should be able to just go to the police station and then explain to them that your daughter hasn’t ever used drugs in her life, and that will take care of things. Unfortunately, that isn’t how the legal system in Texas works.

Even if no drugs are found on your child’s actually possession – for example, in their pockets or purse – she could still be charged with a crime if the prosecutor is able to prove “joint possession.”

“Possession” is legally defined by the Texas Penal Code (s1.07(a)(39)) as being the “actual care, custody, control, or management” of contraband.” In order for the Government to be able to prove that the contraband was in the possession of the Accused, it must be provided that (1) the Contraband was in the possession of the Accused and (2) that the Accused was aware that it was contraband in their possession.

It is a lot clear when contraband is found in the purse or pocket of the Accused. However, what about when there is a bag of pot that is discovered in a car that has two occupants in it? Can both individuals be charged with possession of one bag of pot?

Joint v. Exclusive Possession

Butler Law Firm | Best Houston DWI AttorneyWhen drugs or contraband is considered to be possessed by one person it is referred to as “exclusive possession.” For example, if a person is arrested and a gram of heroin is found in the Accused’s pocket or purse by the police, then the Accused will be alleged to have “exclusive possession” of the drug.

On the other hand, “Joint Possession” refers to when there is possession of contraband or drugs by more than one individual. For example, if a car is stopped by a police and there are three people in it, and there is a bag of pot discovered on the floor of the passenger seat, then all of the car’s occupants could potentially be charged with possession of this bag of pot should it meet the Texas Penal Code s1.07(a)(39) definition. It is not necessary for possession to be exclusive – drugs or contraband may be jointly possessed by more than one person. So, therefore, all of a car’s occupants can be charged with possession of one item of contraband.

Here was a Texas case recently that is a good illustration of the way that constructive possession works. A car was pulled over by a Texas police officer because he suspected that there were outstanding arrest warrants out for the driver. The car had two female passengers, with one in the back and the other in the front seat.

The driver’s identity was confirmed by the police officer and he was arrested for the outstanding warrants. With their consent, the officer searches the car’s two passengers but did not find any contraband. However, the car was then impounded and searched after the arrest, and a syringe was discovered by the officers in a compartment under the heater/air conditioner control. There was methamphetamine contained in the syringe.

The offense of Methamphetamine possession is much more serious than, say, marijuana is. The jury, in this case, found the defendant to be guilty of a felony carrying a two-year state prison sentence. At the initial appeal, the defendant prevailed. However, the conviction was reinstated by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals after being appealed by the prosecutors.

It was explained by the Court of Criminal Appeals that although mere presence was not sufficient for establishing possession of an illegal drug, that there were several factors that jurors and prosecutors could use for inferring a link that connected a defendant to know that she or he possessed the contraband. those factors include the following:

  • The police offer found the drugs in plain view;
  • At the time of his arrest, the defendant was under the influence of drugs;
  • “Incriminating statements” were made to the policy by the defendant;
  • Drugs were discovered in an enclosed area; and
  • The overall conduct of the defendant indicated a guilty conscious.

The defendant in this cased argued that one of the passengers in the car must have placed the syringe underneath the dashboard while he wasn’t looking. However, the Court of Criminal Appeals stated the jury could infer that the syringe had been inside of the compartment the whole time.

Is Your Child Facing Drug Crime Charges?

A majority of parents are not aware that their children can be potentially charged with joint possession. That is why it is critical to teach your children to never get in a car they suspect might have drugs in it. It isn’t sufficient for your child to not use drugs. It is also important to be proactive about not allowing themselves to get into situations that are potentially compromising.

We all make mistakes. Simply getting a ride home from someone shouldn’t result in a felony conviction. It is imperative to speak with an experienced drug crimes lawyer in Harris Country if your child is ever charged unfairly with drug possession. Contact the Butler Law Firm today and speak with an experienced Harris County criminal defense lawyer if you are in need of immediate legal assistance.