If you are stopped by law enforcement while driving based on a minor infraction, only to find yourself ticketed or in deeper trouble for another crime, you wouldn’t be alone. There are even instances in which police cannot issue a ticket for something illegal unless they pull you over for another valid reason. For instance, depending on where you live, law enforcement might not be able to pull you over for not wearing a seatbelt or using your cell phone, but they could ticket you for these things once they have pulled you over for something else, such as failure to heed a stop sign.
Situations such as this might also occur with more extreme crimes. An officer can pull you over for a traffic violation, only to find you are in possession of drugs. It’s not difficult to drive around unnoticed with drugs in your vehicle, and as long as you are abiding traffic laws, it could be years before illegal contraband is discovered, if it’s ever noticed.
Unfortunately, by giving law enforcement a legitimate reason to pull you over, no matter how minor and unrelated, it opens the door to a slew of other charges, including drug possession.
Law enforcement needs minimal reason to search your vehicle for drugs. For instance, if an officer believes he or she smells burnt or fresh marijuana during a routine traffic stop, its reason enough to search your vehicle. The good news is disputing an officer’s olfactory assessment of the situation could help you beat the charges against you.
To learn more about your rights during a traffic stop, check out this article from Business Insider.
What to Do If You are Charged with Drug Possession as the Result of Traffic Stop
Fortunately, even if drugs are found in your vehicle during a routine traffic stop, law enforcement and prosecutors will likely still need to prove constructive possession. There must be independent evidence (fingerprints on a package of drugs are a good example) that links you directly to the drug found. Simple proximity to a drug might not be enough to prove the case against you because it doesn’t guarantee you have dominion or control over what was found.
Ownership of the vehicle in question is also important. Drugs present in a car that you happen to be driving is not enough, but drugs found in your vehicle, of which you have exclusive possession could be. The prosecution will need to show you were aware of the drugs and you had the ability to exercise dominion and control – decisions that could go either way depending on the specific details of your case.
The bottom line? Making a mistake while driving can get you into far more trouble than just a traffic ticket. If you are driving with a banned substance in your vehicle, you should make every effort to avoid driving mistakes. And if you are not 100 percent certain you can operate your vehicle at all times without error (who is?) you should avoid driving with drugs or other illegal substances in your vehicle.
If you would like to know more or you are facing legal action because of a traffic stop, I can help. Contact David Lindsey to schedule a free consultation to discuss your situation.