Thursday, February 11, 2010

Possession of Marijuana, Drugs, and Other Illicit Contraband.

Bryan|College Station criminal defense lawyers regularly deal with possession issues in the field of criminal law. The most common charges brought against folks in Brazos County involve marijuana, controlled substances (including dangerous drugs), alcohol, and weapon charges. Certainly possession of illicit pornography and stolen property could be included in this list of potential offenses. The question I most often answer for clients is the difference between possession and ownership as it relates to charges brought against them.

Texas criminal law prohibits more than ownership of illegal materials. In fact, possession is the key issue. Or should I say "knowing" possession is the most common hook upon which the defense lawyer hangs their hat. Let's look first at how possession is defined.

Possession is typically defined as having "actual care, custody, control, or management" of some illicit contraband. Notice that "ownership" is not included in this definition. In other words, someone need not own something in order to possess it. A simple example helps explain the point. Suppose several college buddies (all under 21 years of age) go out for a night on the town. One person brings along a twelve pack of Bud Light which they purchased earlier in the evening. (a separate offense, by the way) Each person has a beer and finishes by throwing their empty can on to the backseat floorboard. A traffic stop then occurs where the police observe the unopened cans of beer in the front seat. Although the one friend owned the beer, each person in the car could potentially be charged with possessing the alcoholic beverage.

Another, often overlooked, aspect of the possession case is whether the charged person "knew" they were in possession. If the police cannot prove the defendant knowingly possessed contraband they are unable to obtain a conviction. Supposed the same group of friends went out together, but this time without the beer. Instead, the owner of the car had baggies of marijuana stashed under the seats, in the glove box, and in the trunk . . . all without the knowledge of his friends. The same traffic stop occurs and the marijuana is located by the police. Now, although the marijuana was within easy reach of each person in the car (and arguably in their possession) only the driver actually knew it was there. Commonly, each person would be arrested and charged, but unless the prosecutor can prove knowledge the accused friends should escape conviction. (with the help of a good criminal defense attorney, of course).

Possession charges are one of the most common criminal offenses charged against persons in Brazos County. However, the experienced defense lawyer can help the accused person navigate these dangerous waters. Help is available, so don't go it alone.

1 comment:

Criminal Defense Attorneys Grants Pass said...

Hi there, I didn't know that you have to know about the stuff if you are going to be charged for possession. That would make it easier to be off the hook, won't it? You can just deny you knew about it!