Can I Be Charged With Drug Possession Even If No Drugs Are Found On Me?
Under Texas law, a person commits a crime if they “knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance.” The word possession in this context means to have “actual care, custody, control or management” over the illegal drug in question. That does not necessarily mean the police have to catch you with the drugs in your pocket. They simply need to find contraband in an area over which you had control.
Texas Court Upholds 5-Year Sentence of Man Convicted Based on Meth Found in Duffle BagTo give you an illustration of what this means in practice, here is a recent decision from a Texas appellate court, Gilstrap v. State. In this case, the defendant was observed by a motel security guard repeatedly entering and exiting a particular room. The motel itself had an overnight curfew policy in place “because of drug activity on the premises.”
At one point, the security guard confronted the defendant, who was not a guest, and informed him of the curfew. The defendant told the security guard to wait while he went back to the room to get something. The guard said he felt threatened–he suspected the defendant had a gun–so he called the police.
Officers arrived at the scene and arrested the defendant, who had several outstanding warrants. The guard told the officer he suspected there was drug activity in the room the defendant had been seen entering and exiting earlier. The female occupant of the room consented to a police search. During the search, the officers found a black duffle bag containing men’s clothing, a credit card in the defendant’s name, and methamphetamine, which is a controlled substance.
Based on this evidence, prosecutors charged the “possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance.” A jury found the defendant guilty, and a judge subsequently sentenced him to 5 years in prison. On appeal, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to prove he was ever in possession of the methamphetamine. After all, the defendant was not in the room–which was occupied by another person–at the time of his arrest.
The Court of Appeals rejected this argument and affirmed the defendant’s conviction. The appellate court noted that the jury was allowed to “infer” possession even if the drugs were not in “accused’s exclusive possession” at the time. There are 14 relevant factors the jury must consider when making such an inference. Not all factors need to be present–as indeed, they were not here–but the appellate court said there were sufficient “links” between the defendant and the duffle bag to support the inference of possession. Notably, the security guard saw the defendant going in and out of the room where the duffle bag was found, and men’s clothing and possessions identified with the defendant were in said bag.
Call an Attorney!If you are charged with drug possession, simply telling the police “those drugs aren’t mine” is not going to be enough to get you out of trouble. You need to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can advise you of your rights and represent your interests in court. Contact Keith B. French Law, PLLC, today if you need to speak with a lawyer right away.