When there is a law enforcement search of a vehicle or a room in New York and drugs are found, those who are in the vehicle or are near the room will likely claim that the drugs do not belong to them. It is a common question as to how law enforcement and prosecutors can prove who the drugs belonged to. Many will think that this is a viable strategy for defense. However, it is important to understand the law for the presumption of criminal possession of a controlled substance and what it entails. This is key for those who are arrested as part of a drug investigation and charged with possession.
If a controlled substance is found in an automobile, it will be presumptive evidence that every person who was in the vehicle at the time was aware of it and is therefore responsible for it. This does not apply to vehicles like a city bus. This will not apply to the operator of the vehicle if it was part of their job to operate it and it is done in a lawful way with licensing; if a person in the automobile is authorized to have the substance and it is in the same container as it was when it was received; or when it is concealed on the person of someone in the vehicle.
When the narcotic drug is in a room and in open view – apart from a public location – and there is evidence of intention to do anything to prepare the item to be sold, it will be considered presumptive evidence of knowing possession for everyone who is near it when it was discovered. This does not apply to those who have it legally under authorization with it in the same container as when it was acquired, or if a person has it on his or her person.
Being arrested on drug charges can have a litany of serious consequences including fines, jail time and disfavor in the community. It can negatively impact a person’s life for an extended period. When facing these charges, it is wise to do everything possible to avoid the worst-case scenario with a conviction and its penalties. Whether the case stemmed from a traffic stop or the drugs being found in a room, those who are arrested for drug possession must remember they have rights and should seek legal help in crafting a defense.