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How Do Texas Prosecutors Prove “Intentional Possession” of Drugs?

Drug possession is not a minor criminal offense, especially if you are caught with high-end narcotics like cocaine. And when it comes to possession, the police do not need to find the drugs on your actual person. You can be charged, tried, and convicted of felony possession if controlled substances are found in a car that is under your control.

Court Concludes Defendant Was Not “Near Someone Else’s Cocaine”

Mere “proximity” to drugs is not enough to secure a conviction for intentional possession. In other words, if you happened to be standing next to someone who has drugs concealed on them, that does not mean you can also be charged with possession. But if you are the only occupant of a car where drugs are found, that is a different story.

This is exactly what happened to a defendant in a recent Houston drug case, who was sentenced to 32 years in prison after police found cocaine in a rental car that he was driving. Like many drug arrests, this case started out as a traffic-related matter. A man flagged down police to report a “road rage” incident involving him and the defendant. After police resolved that problem, one of the officers approached the defendant’s car and smelled marijuana.

The defendant admitted he had a “little bit” of marijuana in the vehicle. Police then searched the entire vehicle. They found a bag inside the center console, which contained not only marijuana but also “114 grams of cocaine, and about 50 pills in multiple pill bottles” bearing the name of someone other than the defendant. Police also recovered about $300 in cash from the vehicle.

Based on this evidence, prosecutors charged the defendant with “intentional possession” of between 4 and 200 grams of cocaine, a first-degree felony under Texas law. A jury found the defendant guilty, and as noted above, the judge sentenced him to 32 years in prison. On appeal, the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the jury’s verdict.

The Texas First District Court of Appeals affirmed the defendant’s conviction. The appeals court noted that there are 14 types of “links” prosecutors may use to establish a defendant’s intentional possession of drugs. In this case, at least seven of those links were present:

  1. The defendant was present during the search of the vehicle.
  2. The defendant was in “proximity” to the cocaine and had access to its location.
  3. The defendant admitted to police that he had drugs, albeit marijuana, in the car.
  4. A police officer detected an “odor of contraband,” i.e. he smelled marijuana.
  5. The police located drugs and drug paraphernalia from the defendant’s vehicle.
  6. The police found the drugs in an “enclosed place.”
  7. The police recovered a “large amount of cash” in the search.

Given all this, and the fact the defendant was the only occupant of the searched vehicle, the First District found it was highly unlikely that the defendant “was simply near someone else’s cocaine.”

Speak With a Houston Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer Today

Drug prosecutions often succeed or fail on the basis of a police search. It is therefore important to challenge any suspect or potentially unconstitutional search of your person or vehicle. If you have been charged with a drug-related offense and need assistance from a qualified Houston criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates at (281) 280-0100 today .