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Can the police arrest you over drugs you didn’t know about?

On Behalf of | May 12, 2022 | Drug Crimes |

No one expects to get pulled over by the police or to have a couple of officers knock on their front door. Officers will often try to use the lack of preparation by the people involved to their own advantage.

During traffic stops or casual conversations near someone’s home, an officer may ask to search a vehicle or step inside the house. At that point, if they find something that they think is illegal, they could arrest the driver or person who lives there.

Sometimes, police rush to conclusions about circumstances and charge the wrong person with a criminal offense. If the police find drugs in your vehicle or your home, can they charge you with a crime even if you claim that they aren’t yours?

They will need to meet a certain standard to bring charges

Under New Jersey state law and prior court precedent, prosecutors can charge someone with a drug crime or a firearm offense based solely on constructive possession. Constructive possession is the legal term for a situation where the average person would agree that the owner of a piece of real property or vehicle knew about the presence of a specific item and had control over it.

It will be easier for the police to claim constructive possession when they find something in the center console of your vehicle as opposed to secured inside a hidden compartment that you had no way of accessing. The location of the contraband, the circumstances around your ownership of the property or vehicle, and other people with access to the space could all play a role in how you respond to attempts by prosecutors to establish constructive possession of drugs.

All you need is a reasonable doubt

To successfully defend against a drug charge, especially an offense based on constructive possession, meaning that the police did not find you in direct possession of an illegal substance, you need to raise a reasonable doubt about the prosecutor’s allegations to avoid a conviction.

Claiming you did not know something was there is reasonable, especially when you can provide alternate explanations for how something came to be in your vehicle or home. Do you let your teenage cousin use your vehicle to get the hockey practice once a week? Did you just buy the vehicle used and have never given it a thorough deep clean?

The exact circumstances leading to your arrest and your criminal background can have a major influence on the best approach to defending yourself. Learning more about the rules that govern drug charges in New Jersey can help you plan ahead for your day in court.