How Can Prosecutors Prove Someone “Knowingly” Possessed Illegal Drugs?

October 7th, 2021 by Tad Nelson in Criminal Defense, Drug Crime, Felony

To convict someone of drug possession, prosecutors must prove the defendant “knowingly” possessed the controlled substance in question. This can be simple to do if the drugs are found in the defendant’s coat pockets. But what if the drugs are recovered from an area where multiple people might have had access? Here, our Houston criminal defense attorney discusses this question in-depth with a real-life example.

In such cases, prosecutors need to show a number of “affirmative links” between the drugs and the defendant that allow the jury to logically conclude that the defendant must have knowingly possessed said drugs. As one Texas appeals court recently observed,

The number of “links” that can be identified is not particularly significant; rather, what is controlling is the “logical force” or degree to which the “links” that, alone or in combination, do exist and tend to affirmatively link the accused to the contraband.

Of course, it is easier for prosecutors to establish a sufficient number of affirmative links if the defendant was the only person in the area where the drugs were found. Indeed, this was the crux of the case cited above, Brown v. State. Here, two police officers responded to a report of an armed robbery at an apartment complex. The victim identified another woman who lived in the complex–the defendant–as the robber.

The officers proceeded to knock on the defendant’s door. The defendant answered the door. She was alone at the time. The officers quickly identified the weapon–it turned out to be a fake gun–used in the robbery. The officers also saw two pipes “in plain view” that “resembled methamphetamine pipes.” The defendant denied using or possessing any drugs. After the police arrested the defendant, the pipes were tested and found to contain “a trace amount of methamphetamine.”

Prosecutors charged the defendant with felony possession of methamphetamine within 1,000 feet of a school. The defendant elected to have the judge try her case without a jury. The judge found the defendant guilty and sentenced her to five years in prison.

On appeal, the defendant argued there was insufficient evidence to prove she “knowingly” possessed any methamphetamine. The Texas 11th District Court of Appeals disagreed and upheld her conviction. The appellate court said there were a number of “affirmative links” that permitted the judge to infer knowing possession. For example, the defendant was “alone and the only resident of the apartment” where the pipes were found. The defendant also had “exclusive possession” of the apartment when the police conducted their search. And as noted above, the pipes were in plain view–specifically, they were on a coffee table–within the defendant’s immediate control and line of sight.

Contact Houston Drug Crimes Attorney Tad Nelson Today

A felony drug conviction can mean serious jail time. That is why you need to work with a qualified League City drug crimes lawyer who will zealously represent your interests and challenge every aspect of the prosecution’s case in court. Contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today if you need to speak with an attorney right away.

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