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Michigan Criminal Law Blog

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Police Found Drugs in the Backseat of the Cop Car Where I Was Held. Am I Responsible?

Getting arrested might be one of the most frightening things that ever happens to you. The trip from the scene of events to the police station in an officer’s car is intimidating and uncomfortable, to say the least.

But what happens when you exit the vehicle and there appears to be an illegal item left behind? Only you didn’t have anything illegal with you and you know beyond a doubt whatever was found must have already been there or was planted there.

Here’s what you need to know if drugs are found in a police vehicle you were in.

What Works in Your Favor if Drugs are Found in a Police Vehicle You Recently Occupied?

Chances are, the presence of the drug, alone, found in a vehicle you occupied, will not be enough to get you convicted. Cop cars are occupied by many people, so the legal system is reluctant to assume the item automatically belongs to the last person who occupied the vehicle. The arresting officer will likely testify the vehicle was cleaned and searched between the time you were placed in the vehicle and its last occupant, but even that doesn’t prove you are guilty of a crime.

Just as it would be difficult to prove actual possession of a drug if it were found in your vehicle and not on your body, it’s also difficult to prove a drug found in a police vehicle belonged to you. Unless the drug is physically in your hand or pocket, or in something you are carrying, such as a handbag, it’s not considered constructive possession. In most cases, mere proximity to contraband is insufficient to establish constructive possession and the state must present independent proof of your knowledge and ability to control the drug.

Read more about the definition of constructive possession here.

On the other hand, if drugs are found in the back of a police vehicle and the baggie that holds the drugs has your fingerprints on it, the prosecution has a good case for proving constructive possession.

What Do You Need to Know If You are Arrested and Drugs are Later Found in the Police Vehicle?

In terms of what to say or do in this situation, it’s not much different than any other arrest. Share only your identifying information and say nothing else until you’ve spoken to an attorney. But perhaps most importantly, don’t assume the presence of drugs is reason to panic. Many people are able to stay quiet when their arrest seems “less severe,” such as driving under the influence of alcohol, but panic sets in when law enforcement confronts you with a bag of cocaine after you’ve been removed from the cop car. The last thing you need is to shift into full panic mode and begin spouting every statement that comes to mind.

If you find yourself facing drug possession charges for this reason or any other, we can help. Contact Andrew W. Kowalkowski, PLLC at 248.974.9594 to schedule a consultation.


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