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If Drugs Are Found in a House, Who Is Responsible?

if drugs are found in a house who is responsible

Finding unexpected drugs or contraband on your property feels like a punch to the gut. “This can’t be happening – those aren’t mine!” is a common instinctive reaction.

And maybe you’re right – just because questionable items turn up in spaces you share doesn’t automatically make you a criminal mastermind. Context matters here.

We need to talk about murky legal concepts like “constructive possession” and “constructive knowledge” that cops use to tag people as responsible for anything found near them.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the truth about drug possession in California, how cops determine who to arrest when drugs are found in a house, and how to defend yourself against drug crime allegations.

What Constitutes Drug Possession in California?

California law defines possession of a controlled substance as having a prohibited drug under your control without a valid prescription. This falls under Health and Safety Code 11350 HS.

To convict someone, prosecutors must prove five key elements:

  1. The defendant possessed a controlled substance
  2. They lacked a valid prescription
  3. They knew of the substance’s presence
  4. They knew it was a controlled substance
  5. It constituted a usable amount

Controlled substances refer to illegal drugs or chemicals governed by regulations like the US Controlled Substances Act. The standards require awareness and usable quantities – traces or debris don’t qualify.

Determining Who is Responsible for Drugs Found in a Shared Home

When illegal drugs turn up in a home occupied by several people, it poses a tricky legal dilemma. Which individual specifically possessed and controlled the contraband?

If found concealed in someone’s private space, like a bedroom or vehicle, ownership can reasonably be assumed. However, drugs in common areas like living rooms or kitchens accessible to roommates and guests alike make criminal liability uncertain.

Without evidence tying the drugs to one person, charges face dismissal. So, police look at other contextual factors – who acted suspiciously when the drugs appeared or have a personal drug history may draw scrutiny as the potential owner.

What Prosecutors Must Prove for a Drug Possession Conviction

If drugs are found in someone’s home or on their property, it does not necessarily mean they will be convicted of possessing them. For a drug possession charge to stick, prosecutors have to prove certain things.

There’s a legal principle called “constructive possession” that comes into play. This means the person needs to have intentionally been exercising control over the illegal drugs and known the drugs were there. Just happening to accidentally be near the drugs is not enough to get convicted.

Some evidence that may show constructive possession includes:

  • if the drugs were found close to where the person regularly spends time
  • if they admitted the drugs belonged to them
  • if they had routine access to the places the drugs were found or
  • if they had a lot of unexplained cash (which can indicate drug dealing) or other indicia like scales and baggies.

If there’s not enough solid proof that the person intentionally and knowingly possessed the drugs, the charges usually won’t hold up in court.

However, police still often make arrests whenever drugs are found, leaving it to prosecutors later on to build the possession case. If you’re charged with drug possession but believe you have a strong defense against constructive possession, consulting a criminal defense lawyer is highly advisable to protect your rights.

Defending Against Erroneous Drug Possession Charges in CA

Being accused of possessing illegal drugs you knew nothing about can happen easily nowadays. But just finding suspicious stuff in your home or car doesn’t automatically make you guilty of putting it there or owning it.

Fortunately, demonstrative legal defenses exist to contest questionable drug charges:

Lack of Actual Possession

If the substances were located in a shared common space accessible by other residents or guests, custody links become ambiguous. Reasonable doubt of responsibility applies when contraband sits equally available to multiple parties for unknown time periods.

Lack of Constructive Possession

Just occupying a property where contraband appears doesn’t prove you purposefully obtained, interacted with or controlled the illegal materials. Hard evidence must establish knowing possession – not just incidental proximity.

Illegal Search Methods

Sometimes, police use racial biases or make assumptions about certain neighborhoods that ignore civil rights. They might also push you to permit searches without telling you your rights. If they use illegal tactics to seize evidence, it may get thrown out later.

Don’t Let Drug Charges Ruin Your Future – Fight Back

When questionable contraband appears in a shared home, it’s crucial to contact The Nieves Law Firm straight away. For years, our California defense team has succeeded in dissolving unfounded drug possession charges by investigating the complex question of who truly controlled discovered substances behind the scenes.

Whether drugs turned up in common spaces accessible by other residents, were planted without your knowledge, or police failed to establish constructive possession – we leverage defenses to collapse allegations tying you to the contraband.

Take the first step against fighting back against false allegations right now by calling The Nieves Law Firm today.

Author Bio

Jo-Anna Nieves is the Founder and Managing Attorney of The Nieves Law Firm, an Oakland criminal defense law firm she created in 2012. With more than 11 years of experience in criminal defense, she has zealously represented clients in a wide range of legal matters, including DUIs, domestic violence, expungement, federal crimes, juvenile law, motions to vacate, sex crimes, violent crimes, and other criminal charges.

Jo-Anna received her Juris Doctor from the Florida State University College of Law and is a member of the State Bar of California. She has received numerous accolades for her work, including being named a Super Lawyer Rising Star the past 8 years, the #12 Fastest Growing Law Firm in the U.S. by Law Firm 500 in 2019, and one of the fastest growing companies in the U.S. by Inc 5000 in 2023.

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