Can A Passenger Be Charged If Drugs Are Discovered In The Vehicle?

The important principle that applies to vehicle passengers is the concept of constructive possession. There are three different types of possession: actual possession, constructive possession, and joint possession. OUJI-CR 6-11 defines these types of possession.

Actual Possession

Actual possession is the easiest to understand. This is where you have physical possession of the drugs somewhere on your person. For example, you have actual possession of drugs when the baggie is in your pocket.

Constructive Possession

Constructive possession is the most difficult concept to understand because the drugs are not on the defendant’s person. For example, you have drugs in a glove compartment; they are not on your person. You know they’re there and can control the disposition of them. Therefore, you have constructive possession of those drugs. Someone who has constructive possession of drugs is just as guilty as someone with actual possession.

Joint Possession

Possession is joint if two or more people share actual or constructive possession of a thing. A person may be deemed to be in joint possession of drugs that are in the physical custody of an associate if that person willfully and knowingly shares with that other person the right to control the disposition or use of the drugs.

For example, a passenger may have joint possession of drugs in the driver’s pocket if the passenger willfully and knowingly shared the right to control the disposition or use of those drugs.

Proximity Not Enough

A key principle to remember is that mere proximity to a substance is insufficient to prove possession. In order to prove constructive possession, an individual must have had knowledge of the items present and the power and the intent to control their disposition or use. Proof that the accused was at a place where drugs were being used or possessed is in and of itself insufficient to justify the finding of possession. There must be additional evidence of knowledge and control.

Motor Vehicle Issues

With respect to being a passenger in a motor vehicle that is not yours, you might receive a drug-related charge if the drugs are found in the car. Whether you’re charged depends on a lot of factors. Where exactly were the drugs found? Were they closer to you or the other individual(s) in the vehicle? Were they in a container that only somebody else had access to (e.g. a locked glove box that only the driver had the keys to)? These are all things that an attorney is going to look for. It’s important to build a case that not only did you not have actual possession but you had neither constructive nor joint possession of the drug.

For more information on Drug Charges For Passengers, a free initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (405) 633-3420 today.


OUJI-CR 6-11