Can my son be charged with possession of someone else’s drugs?

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Can my son be charged with possession of someone else’s drugs?

My son and 4 others where in a car. He
was not the driver but a backseat
passanger. The police approached the
vehicle and smelled marijuana. They
then searched the vehicle and found a
pipe and drug residue and charged him
with the drugs. He is 18 and I believe
the other 4 passangers 3 girls and 1
guy are 17. The driver and another
passenger already stated the drugs was
not his nor was he the one smoking. Now
they’re tryig to charge him with
possession/use of drugs and drug
paraphernalia and 4 counts of
contributing with or to minors. Is this
possible?

Asked on January 17, 2017 under Criminal Law, Arizona

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 4 years ago | Contributor

He can be charged if the authorities believe that there is "probable cause"--some reasonable grounds--to believe that at least some of the drugs are his; the police and prosecutor are not obligated to take what the other two suspects said at face value, but can charge and proceed with the case. They might believe the drugs are his as well based on if he had a marijuana odor or residue on him, on where the drugs were found (e.g. next to him; in a bag he owned; etc.), on statements he or the 4th and 5th passengers made, or on inconsistencies in the statements of those trying to exhonerate him which suggest they are lying.
However, while the threshhold of evidence to charge initially is fairly low, the amount of evidence or proof required to convict ("beyond a reasonable doubt") is much higher, so it may well be, based on what you write, that he has a good defense and/or there is a lack lf evidence against him, so that he can defend himself successfully (i.e. the state will not be able to prove its case) or possibly even get the case dismissed. To maximize your son's chances, retain experienced defense counsel to represent him--as stated, it may be possible for an experienced lawyer to get the case fairly quickly dismissed.


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