Answers to questions you might have asked if you’ve ever been around drugs

Can I be charged, fined, or go to jail if I’m a passenger in a car where drugs were found? What about if I’m driving but my friend is smoking weed? And if we aren’t in a car, can I get in trouble if my friend has weed, even if I’m not using it? 

Whether you do drugs or not, it’s smart to ask these kinds of questions if you plan on hanging out someone — a friend, a friend of a friend, or a family member — who does. Let’s take a few minutes to discuss questions like these and the legal ramifications of being found near drugs at the wrong time. 

Can you get in trouble for being around drugs? Physical vs. constructive possession. 

If you were a passenger in a car where drugs were found, the first thing you need to understand is how Texas defines possession. In Texas Penal code defines possession as being in “care, custody, control, or management” of a substance. Essentially, this means that even if you don’t have physical possession (directly on your person), of a drug you can still possess it. This type of possession is called “constructive possession.”

So, what does all this mean if you were a passenger in a car where drugs were found? It means that yes, if the police and judge have reasons to believe you were in “constructive possession” of drugs in a car, then you can get in trouble for just being around drugs, even if they aren’t yours. 

But is it likely that I’ll get charged with possession if I’m a passenger in a car where drugs were found? 

Whether or not you get charged with possession for being a passenger in a car where drugs were found depends on many factors. These can include: 

  • Where the drugs were found: The closer the drugs are to you, the more likely it is that the police will think they’re yours; a baggie found in the passenger-side door is more likely to give you problems than one found in the trunk. 
  • The person you’re with: If you’re lucky, the person(s) you’re with will own up to whether or not the drugs are theirs. If you’re unlucky, you will both deny possession and you’ll have more of a battle on your hands. 
  • Your actions/how the law is feeling: Maybe you looked “furtive” to the cop who pulled you over. Or maybe the police officer who flagged down the car simply wants to make a point. Lots of small things like these can contribute to your being charged with possession.

No matter the reason, if you do get charged with possession, it’s up to your lawyer to convince a jury that you were either unaware the drugs existed or you didn’t have time to remove them from your presence.

Speaking of drugs and cars, check out the answer to the question, “Can you get a DWI in the passenger’s seat?

If your passenger has drugs, can you be charged with possession?

This situation can go down in a number of ways. For example, a police officer might catch your friend smoking a joint in your car while you’re driving. (And if you’re wondering, ”Is it legal to smoke weed in Texas?” the answer is still no.) Or, a police officer could pull you over, search your vehicle, and find drugs hidden in the passenger’s side compartment.

You have control of this particular “area,” which means you have “control” of the drugs. If law enforcement checked your vehicle, they would naturally assume the drugs are yours (even if you’re nowhere near the vehicle).  

In each situation, you could (and probably would) be charged with possession. However, one situation will definitely be easier to fight in court than the other; it’d be very hard to claim you did not know of the drug’s existence if your friend is smoking right out in the open. On the other hand, if the drug was hidden next to your friend, that’s a different and much better scenario for you.

Wondering, “What is the punishment for possession of a controlled substance?” Read up on Texas drug penalties. 

If drugs are found in a house, who is responsible? 

By now, the theme of this article should be pretty obvious: if you have possession of the area and that area has drugs, you could be charged with possession. This “area” includes your home. In other words, if drugs are found in your house and they are not yours, you could still be held responsible. 

Just remember you don’t always have to let the police in if they’re at your doorstep. (Learn more about what to do if the police knock on your door.)

Were you a passenger in a car where drugs were found? Don’t panic. 

At Thiessen Law Firm in Houston, our team has decades of combined experience fighting for the rights of Texas citizens. If you were a passenger in a car where drugs were found and have been charged with possession of a controlled substance, do not panic. Contact Houston’s go-to criminal defense team and let us help you overcome this hurdle. 

Schedule a free consultation online or call us today at 713-864-9000.

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Mark Thiessen

Mark Thiessen is an aggressive trial lawyer best known for his devotion to justice for his clients and high rank as a DWI Super Lawyer in Texas.