Staying Calm In Court

4 Things You Need To Know About Vehicle-Related Drug Possession

Were you arrested because drugs were found in your vehicle? If so, you may feel understandable panic -- but don't assume the worst just yet. A skilled drug defense attorney can help you understand your position and rights so you can get the fairest possible treatment from the legal system. Here are four helpful tidbits of information to help get you up to speed on your situation.

1. You Might Be Able To Get Your Car Back

Any vehicle associated with an alleged crime can impounded by the prosecution as evidence. That doesn't mean that you can't get it back, but it does mean that you're going to have to jump through some judicial and administrative hoops to do so. In fact, once upon a time, it could take years to retrieve a car seized as evidence in a criminal case. This nightmare scenario was eliminated in 2004 via a precedent known as Krimstock v. Kelly, and today the defendant has a right to challenge the prosecution's impoundment request within 10 business days of the impoundment.

Your drug defense attorney will secure and fill out the proper form for filing this request. Contesting the seizure of your vehicle forces the prosecution to prove its need to hang onto the vehicle for the purposes of the case. But there's always the chance that the judge may rule that your car needs to stay put until the case is resolved.

2. Your Fourth Amendment Rights Can Save You

If drugs are openly visible in your car when the police pull you over, those officers may have every right to seize the drugs. They can also search the rest of the vehicle with your permission. But that doesn't mean they can simply break into your trunk over your protest. This act would be considered unlawful search and seizure, against which citizens are protected under the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

If the arresting officers are foolish enough to search your vehicle without permission, any drugs they find in the course of that search are legally inadmissible as evidence against you. If those drugs are the only drugs found at the scene, the prosecution has no leverage, and your case will probably be dismissed. 

3. You Might Be Able to Carry Medical Marijuana in Your Car

The presence of recreational marijuana in your vehicle can definitely be grounds for a possession-based arrest -- but what if you're legally prescribed that marijuana for medical purposes? In states that sanction it, medical marijuana can be prescribed for everything from glaucoma and neuropathy to Crohn's disease. 23 states (plus Washington D.C.) currently have some provision for legal medical marijuana sale, possession and usage. But medical marijuana is governed by some serious strictures, so can you carry it in your vehicle? The answer is, "It depends."

The first thing you must keep in mind is that if you're driving to (or through) another state, that state's particular marijuana laws apply to you. If you're pulled over in a state where there is no allowance for medical marijuana, then you can be arrested for possession of an illegal drug -- prescription or no prescription. Even within a pharmaceutically-friendly state, you may be subject to strict transportation rules. For example, Californians can only transport medical marijuana if they're delivering it to a patient or helping a patient relocate.

4. The Prosecution Must Prove "Controlled Possession"

It's one thing for the police to claim that you met someone in your car to negotiate a drug deal and quite another for them prove that you actually took possession of the drugs and transported them in your own vehicle. For instance, if you unknowingly arranged a meeting with an undercover officer who arrested you before transferring the drug to your person or vehicle, then you never assumed "controlled possession" of the drug.  If you never possessed the drugs while your car was in motion, your drug defense attorney will also note that you weren't driving while in possession of drugs.

As you can see, vehicular drug possession laws and rules can present fairly complex legal scenarios -- and under certain circumstances, those "shades of gray" can work in the accused's favor. Talk to your drug defense attorney about the details and subtleties of your individual case. For more information, contact a local firm like Kassel & Kassel A Group of Independent Law Offices