Can I Be Charged in Pennsylvania for Drugs in the Car if I am a Passenger?

Attorney Grant Travis | Travis Law Firm | Personal Injury Attorney, DUI Defense Attorney, Criminal Defense Attorney | Serving Erie, Crawford, Warren & all of Northwestern PA | Call the Travis Law Firm at 814-277-2222 today!

You are riding with a friend who is pulled over for a traffic stop. The police officers search the vehicle and find drugs under the back seat. You are charged with possession of drugs and arrested, even though you had no idea your friend had drugs in the vehicle. What should you do?

Call an Edinboro Drug Possession Attorney Immediately

Pennsylvania law allows for constructive possession of drugs charges, which can mean you are facing the same penalties as a person charged with actual possession of drugs. This criminal charge is not minor and should not be ignored, even if you are dealing with marijuana possession. The penalties could have negative consequences for your college career and beyond.

What is Actual Possession of Drugs?

Actual possession of drugs is exactly what it sounds like — you have drugs on your “person.” An officer conducts a search and finds drugs somewhere on your body. You are charged with possession of drugs, which could carry a sentence of prison time and a substantial fine. Prosecutors treat drug charges very seriously.  Therefore, even drug charges involving small amounts of drugs may be vigorously prosecuted.

What is Constructive Possession of Drugs?

Constructive possession is a legal theory that allows individuals to be charged with drug possession even though the drugs are not found in a body search. When drugs are found in a car or a house, the police may charge everyone with constructive possession. To be guilty of constructive possession, you must have known that the item was present and that the item was an illegal substance. You must also have the intent and ability to control the substance.

In the above example, even though the drugs were in the back seat, it is conceivable that you knew that the drugs were there, and you intended to use or distribute the drugs. Of course, simply being in the car is not sufficient to prove you knew about the drugs. Therefore, the prosecution often uses evidence, including statements made by you or other defendants, fingerprints, DNA, and other forensic evidence to establish you knew about the drugs and therefore could exercise control over the drugs.

Fighting a Constructive Possession Charge

Even though it may be more difficult to prove a constructive possession charge, you should never take this drug charge lightly. The penalties for constructive possession are the same as the penalties for actual possession of drugs. Furthermore, a highly skilled and experienced prosecutor knows how to use the available evidence to convince a jury of your guilt.

Therefore, if you are arrested on a drug possession charge, you need to contact an Edinboro criminal defense attorney immediately. There could be several defense strategies available; however, your actions during and after the arrest could reduce the validity of those defenses. You should invoke your right to remain silent except for asking for your attorney. Trying to explain your side of the story or convince the police you are innocent is usually not beneficial and may harm your case.

Contact an Edinboro Criminal Defense Lawyer

Call The Travis Law Firm at (800) 401-2066 to request a free legal consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Edinboro. Our law firm assists clients in Erie, Edinboro, and the surrounding towns and counties.