Here’s reason number 354 why you should consult with an attorney in your area prior to entering a plea to a criminal case.  The State may not be able to prove your guilt.  I just recently represented a client who was charged by the State Attorney’s Office with constructive possession of drugs in a car.  The arresting officer’s report indicated that my client admitted owning the car; but my client denied possession of the drugs.  The police report also indicated that there were two other people in the car and all of them denied possessing the drugs.  Unfortunately, my client was the only one charged in the case because according to the report, he admitted owning the car.  Fortunately, after litigating the case and a thorough review of the facts, the State Attorney’s Office made the right call and dismissed the case.  Here’s why:

 

There are two types of possession:  actual and constructive.  Actual means that the drugs in your hand or on your person.  Constructive means the drugs are in a place over which you have control or over a place in which you have concealed it.  According to Florida case law, to establish constructive possession, the State must prove that the defendant had knowledge of the presence of the drug and the ability to exercise dominion and control over it.  However, in a jointly occupied vehicle, a defendant’s proximity to contraband is insufficient to establish constructive possession.  The law applies even to cases where the drugs are in an area of the car for everyone to see, such as a center console.  The case law further states that knowledge of and ability to control the contraband cannot be inferred solely from the defendant’s proximity to the contraband in a jointly-occupied vehicle; rather, the State must present independent proof of the defendant’s knowledge and ability to control the contraband.  The independent proof is usually established through admissions.  In other words, the person in the car talks to the officer and admits to possession of the drugs.  (Please see my earlier blog:  You Have the Right to Remain Silent … USE IT! https://montronelaw.wordpress.com/2009/11/19/you-have-the-right-to-remain-silent-use-it/  If you do not make incriminating admissions, law enforcement may attempt to establish possession of drugs through DNA or fingerprints. 

 

Finally, there are appellate cases in Florida that state that ownership of the car alone is not proof positive that a person in a jointly occupied vehicle is in constructive possession of drugs.

 

Conclusion

An arrest and formal charge does not equate to proof beyond a reasonable doubt.  Do not go into a criminal courtroom without knowing everything you can about your case.  Any time you plea to a criminal charge, it has important and usually long lasting negative consequences.  It is very important to consult with an attorney in your area before you change your plea. 

 

 

Advertisements