When police in Jacksonville, Florida and other areas of Florida stop a vehicle and find drugs such as marijuana, crack cocaine or methamphetamine somewhere in the vehicle, they will try and attribute those drugs to one or more individuals in the vehicle and make drug arrests accordingly. Police claim that even though the drugs were not found on a person, the person was in constructive possession of the drugs. However, police often extend the meaning of constructive possession beyond its legal application and arrest someone for drugs without just cause.
For instance, in a recent drug case near Jacksonville, Florida the police pulled the defendant over while he was driving a vehicle rented to another person. There was another passenger in the vehicle. The police had a tip from a confidential informant that the defendant was carrying illegal drugs. The police officer observed that the defendant made a move to close the center console and was nervous and shaking. The police arrested the defendant based on information from the CI and searched the vehicle. The police officer found cocaine and Xanax in the center console.
After the defendant was arrested for possessing the cocaine and Xanax, he went to trial and was convicted. The police and prosecutors argued that he was in constructive possession of the drugs. However, he appealed that conviction and won his appeal. The appellate court noted that in order to prove constructive possession of drugs the state needs to prove that the defendant knew the drugs were in the center console and had the ability to exercise control over the drugs. The state did not prove constructive possession of the drugs. The car did not belong to the defendant, and there was insufficient evidence to prove that the defendant knew the drugs were in the center console. Those drugs could have just as easily belonged to the passenger or the person who rented the vehicle. The fact that the defendant was nervous and shaking could be explained by any number of factors including the fact that he had been stopped and was being investigated by the police. Closing the center console may seem suspicious in hindsight, but it does not prove that he did it to conceal drugs in there.
People get arrested quite often on drug charges when drugs are found near them or in a vehicle in which they are occupying. This does not mean a person is actually responsible for those drugs. Constructive possession of drugs is a misunderstood concept in criminal law, and there are often many explanations for the drugs that can be argued to successfully defend a person arrested on drug charges.