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Can I Be Arrested for Drugs That Aren’t Mine?

Nov. 5, 2021

In California, nearly 10% of felony arrests and a whopping 25.5% of misdemeanors are drug related. Facing a drug charge is never easy, but it can be especially traumatic when the drugs weren’t even yours. If this is your case, it’s essential that you hire an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the complexity of your situation. At The Law Office of John Goalwin, we have the experience and resources needed to assist you in fighting drug-related charges. We proudly serve clients in Los Angeles, California, as well as Torrance, Norwalk, Van Nuys, and Compton. Call us today to set up an appointment so our team can start working on your behalf.

Constructive Possession

The first concept to understand about your situation is that of “constructive possession.” With drug charges, this occurs when the substance found is considered to be under your “domain and control.” You can be arrested even if you don’t actually have drugs on your person, but if you have the ability to take possession of them whenever you want. In the eyes of the law, if drugs are in your car or home — regardless of whether you know it — you can be charged.

Constructive possession can be one of the more difficult charges to levy and defend because there’s so much left open to interpretation. For example, if someone is riding in your car and you’re unaware they have illegal drugs on them, you could still be charged for possession. In some cases, this even includes rideshare services like Uber or Lyft. As the driver, you’re considered to be the one “in control” of your car so you have access to anything that’s in it, even if it belongs to a passenger you picked up five minutes ago.

Prior Knowledge

The other component to a constructive possession charge has to do with prior knowledge. In California, in addition to showing the drugs were in your control, it must also be proven that you knew or should have known that drugs were in your car or home. This can also be tricky to prove or disprove which is why you need a qualified criminal defense attorney should you find yourself in this situation.

One example to illustrate this is if you have a roommate and you know they are or were a drug user. In court, the prosecution will try to prove that you knew there were drugs in your home or that it was reasonable to assume you knew. And, since you have keys to your home and presumably access to your roommate’s room, you have “control” over these substances.

Alternatively, if you can prove that you had no knowledge and had no way of knowing, it will be much harder for the prosecutor. For example, let’s say you agreed to pick up a friend of a friend that you had never met and she puts a suitcase in your trunk. Later that night you’re pulled over and an officer finds drugs hidden inside that suitcase. Theoretically, you could prove that you had only just met that person and had no knowledge of the contents of her suitcase.

Contact The Law Office of John Goalwin

Our firm specializes in criminal defense cases and pairs seasoned legal counsel with a young staff that brings creativity and energy into our practice. With this, we give every client the individual attention they deserve. If you’ve found yourself saying, “I’ve been arrested for drugs that weren’t mine,” we can help. Attorney John Goalwin is in his 45th year of practice and will use his experience to build the best defense specifically tailored to your situation. Contact our offices in Los Angeles to discuss your options.