We see many cases where the police find illegal drugs near a person or group of people or in a house or car owned by someone and charge one or more people with possession of those drugs. For example, the police may go to a apartment or hotel room that is and has been occupied by several people and find illegal drugs. When no one admits to owning the drugs, the police arrest everyone in the room or house in the hopes that some of the charges will stick. The fact of the matter is that the police and the state must be able to show that a person had knowledge of the drugs and exercised some control over the drugs. Without those two elements, a charge of possession of drugs will fail.
In a recent criminal case near Jacksonville, Florida, police went into a hotel room occupied by two people. The defendant was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon. The police found a set of keys on a table in the room. The police officer asked the defendant to whom the keys belonged. The defendant said they were his keys and agreed to a search of his vehicle, according to the police officer. The police officers searched the vehicle and found a black bag on the passenger floorboard that contained a large amount of methamphetamine. The evidence indicated that the defendant and another guy arrived at the hotel in the vehicle together, and the defendant then admitted he knew about the methamphetamine.
The defendant was charged with trafficking in methamphetamine, and that charge was ultimately thrown out. While the evidence may have proven that the defendant knew about the methamphetamine, the drugs were not found on, or immediately near, him. They were found in a vehicle occupied by at least one other person. Because the state could not prove that the defendant had some control over the methamphetamine at some point, there was insufficient evidence to prove that he was in constructive possession of the drugs.
When police find illegal drugs in a vehicle, house, apartment, hotel room, on the ground, etc., it is not uncommon for them to arrest the person or persons who are in the general vicinity. However, unless someone actually admits to ownership of the drugs, if the state cannot prove that someone had knowledge and control over the drugs, there should not be enough evidence to support a conviction for possession of drugs.