How You May Face Drug Charges Even if the Drugs Do Not Belong to You
February 6th, 2020 by Tad Nelson in Drug Crime
When it comes to drug crimes, law enforcement need not actually find illegal contraband on your person. If the police execute a valid search warrant for your property and locate illegal drugs, particularly in “plain view,” you can still be arrested, tried, and convicted of drug possession. What matters here is not what is found on you, but what you “exercised control, management, or care” over any contraband.
Woman Sentenced to 5 Years for Drugs Found in Boyfriend’s House
A recent Texas appeals court decision, Barrera v. State, illustrates what we are talking about. In this case, police in Abilene obtained a search warrant for a particular residence. The defendant was dating the man named as the suspect in the warrant. She was also living at the house.
During the search of the residence, the police found “several items in plain view” on a table, including marijuana, methamphetamine, and other drug paraphernalia. The defendant’s purse was also on this table.
Prosecutors subsequently charged the defendant with first-degree felony possession of methamphetamine with intent to deliver and second-degree possession of the same drugs. At trial, the defendant testified she had no knowledge of any drug activity at her boyfriend’s house; she simply stayed there to help him care for his children.
The jury found the defendant guilty on the second-degree possession charge. The judge sentenced the defendant to five years in prison. On appeal, the defendant challenged the sufficiency of the evidence against her. Essentially, she argued the prosecution failed to prove that any of the drugs recovered in the search belonged to her.
The appeals court rejected this argument and upheld the defendant’s conviction. The court explained that the defendant’s “presence” at the scene “combined with either direct or circumstantial evidence” was more than enough to convict her. Here, that evidence included the fact the drugs were found “in plain view,” and that the defendant actually lived at the residence. From this, a jury could reasonably infer the defendant “exercised control, management, or care over the” drugs found on the table “and that she knew that the matter possessed was contraband.”
Separately, the appeals court rejected an alternative ground of appeal offered by the defendant, namely that the jury should have an option to convict her on a “lesser offense” of third-degree felony possession. In Texas, the degree of the felony is largely tied to the amount of drugs found. In this case, the prosecution charged the defendant based on the total amount of drugs found in the house. The defendant argued the charge should have been limited to the drugs found on the table, which would only support a third-degree charge.
The appeals court said that in this case, instructing the jury on a lesser-included offense made no sense, because the defendant herself said she never committed any crime, to begin with. There was, therefore, no basis for the jury to decide she was in possession of some, but not all, of the drugs recovered from the house.
Speak with a Houston Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer today
Many people find themselves caught up in drug busts despite having no personal knowledge or possession of any illegal substances. If you find yourself in this situation and need advice from an experienced Houston criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Offices of Tad Nelson & Associates today. Or call 281-280-0100.