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Can I be charged if a passenger in my car has drugs in his or her possession?

Most drug charges in Utah are based on drugs or paraphernalia found in the immediate possession of the defendant. But in some cases, a person may be charged with drugs found in the possession of another person. Passengers in a vehicle may leave drugs or paraphernalia in the car that then become the basis of a constructive possession drug charge against the driver. In some cases, drugs found in the immedate possession of a passenger could also be attributed to the driver under principles of "joint" or "group" possesion.

If you are facing drug possession or other criminal charges in Utah, an experienced criminal defense attorney can be vital to a successful outcome in your case. Based in Salt Lake City, criminal attorney Stephen Howard has spent his carreer defending the rights of individuals who have been prosecuted for criminal charges. Contact us today to arrange for an initial confidential consultation.

Constructive Possession in Utah Drug Cases

Utah criminal law recognizes two kinds of drug possession: actual possession and constructive possession. Actual possession is a relatively straightforward concept, and typically involves cases where drugs or paraphernalia are found in a person's pocket, purse, wallet, etc. A charge under constructive possession principles can be more complex, and may involve a scenario where drugs or paraphernalia found in one person's possession or unattended are attributed to another person.

Utah Drug Paraphernalia Defense LawyerA constructive possession charge can be pursued under Utah law even if there is no evidence that the defendant ever touched the drugs. In defining the term "possession" in context of a controlled substance case, Utah Code 58-37-2 addresses the concept of constructive possession. Under this statute, a constructive possession charge can be established if the "controlled substance is found in a place or under circumstances indicating that the [defendant] had the ability and the intent to exercise dominion and control over it."

Common scenarios leading to constructive possession charges could include drugs found under a vehicle seat or in a glove box. In some cases, the driver may know about the drugs and also have the ability and intent to exercise control over the drugs. In such cases, the driver would be guilty under a constructive possession theory. But in other cases, the drugs may have been left behind by a former passenger who is no longer in the vehicle, or even hidden by a passenger who realized that police might be conducting a search. In these cases, a driver might not even know that the drugs were present. Unless police and prosecutors can prove that the driver knew the drugs were present, and also had the intent and ability to exercise control over the drugs, a constructive possession case is not supported.

Group Possession and Joint Possession

In some cases, both the driver and a passenger may face drug possession charges under the concept of "joint" or "group" possession. The definition of "possession" under Utah Code 58-37-2 explicitly includes joint and group possession of drugs. So long as a prosecutor can establish that each individual in the group had both teh intent and the ability to exercies control or dominion over the drugs, then each individual can be charged with possession.

Finding a Utah Criminal Lawyer in Salt Lake City

Utah Criminal Defense AttorneyIf you are facing charges for possession of a controlled substance, an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney can make all the difference.  Salt Lake criminal lawyer Stephen Howard has a track record that speaks for itself.

Contact us now to schedule an initial consultation.

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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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