Drug charges involving possession typically arise from the police finding illegal narcotics on the suspect’s person. But what if the police simply find drugs in a room where you happen to be sitting? Is mere proximity to drugs enough to support a conviction for possession?
To help answer these questions, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has provided a “non-exclusive” list of factors a jury may consider. Some of these factors include:
- whether the suspect was present when the police searched the room;
- the suspect’s “proximity” to the drugs;
- the suspect’s own state of intoxication or drug use at the time of the search;
- whether the suspect attempted to flee the area; and
- the presence of “large amounts of cash” or “drug paraphernalia.”
Again, these are just some of the factors and the overall list–which has 14 items–is considered “non-exclusive.” This means that in an actual criminal trial, the prosecution does not need to prove the existence of a specific number of the factors. Rather, a judge or jury must evaluate all of the available evidence in context.
Houston Court Upholds 50-Year Sentence for Man Found Seated on Couch Next to Meth, Drug Paraphernalia
Here is a practical illustration. This is taken from a recent decision by the Texas 1st District Court of Appeals here in Houston. In Hammond v. State, Fort Worth police executed a “no-knock” search warrant looking for illegal narcotics. When police entered the residence listed on the warrant, they found the defendant “sitting on a couch along the back wall of the living room.”
During the search, police recovered “a pipe used to smoke methamphetamine and a bag full of smaller baggies commonly used to package narcotics for sale,” located on an end table next to the couch where the defendant was seated. Around the end table there were “several digital scales,” some of which had “crystal residue,” indicating they had been used to measure narcotics. Police also found “a baggie of methamphetamine on the floor directly in front of” the defendant.
Altogether, the police found over 57 grams of methamphetamine. This led to felony drug charges against the defendant for “possession with intent to deliver between four and two hundred grams of methamphetamine.” A jury found the defendant guilty, and given the defendant’s prior criminal record, the judge sentenced him to 50 years in prison.
On appeal, the defendant argued the evidence was insufficient to prove he was in “possession” of any drugs at the time of the police search. The 1st District disagreed. Applying the factors cited by the Court of Criminal Appeals, the 1st District noted the defendant “was present when the search was conducted,” the illegal narcotics were seen in “plain view,” and was in “close proximity” to the defendant’s position on the couch. This was more than enough for a jury to infer the defendant was in actual possession of the drugs the police recovered.
Speak with a Houston Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer Today
Even if you are charged with possession of drugs that do not belong to you, never assume the police will see it that way. More importantly, never volunteer any information to the police without first speaking to an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you have been charged with a drug crime in Houston, Galveston, or League City. Call (281) 280-0100.