Understanding “Possession” with Drug Cases

By January 14, 2014September 17th, 2021Drug Crimes, Drug Possession

If you have been arrested in Texas or have become the target of a criminal investigation for possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance or possession of a dangerous drug, it is critical to your defense that you understand what the prosecution must prove for a conviction. If the prosecution cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you had control over where the drug was placed (because someone else stashed it there or you borrowed a car that had drugs in it) then you cannot be convicted in most cases.

A critical legal concept that must be understood in any drug possession defense is the requirement of affirmative links. As required by Texas Health and Safety Code Section 481.002(38) and further explained in Brown v. State, S.W.2d 744, 747 (Tex. Crim. App. 1995), the District Attorney’s office must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you exercised care, custody and control over the contraband and you must have known that what you were possessing was a particular drug (ex. cocaine or heroin). For example, if you are in your personal vehicle and you pick up a passenger and give them a ride, if they leave a controlled substance under the passenger seat, that does not necessarily mean you are guilty of possession of a controlled substance. Even though it is your vehicle and a police officer will assume that you were hiding the controlled substance under the passenger seat of your car, the prosecution must still prove that you exercised some control over the drug and that you knew that the drug was actually in your vehicle.

A common tactic employed by the prosecution to establish possession in questionable situations where there may be multiple individuals near illegal drugs is the argument of joint possession. Although it is possible for more than one person to possess a substance or object at the same time, the evidence must still affirmatively link you to the contraband in such a manner and extent that a reasonable inference would arise that you actually knew of the drug’s existence and that you exercised control over it.

As defined by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Rhyne v. State, 620 S.W.2d 502, 503 (Tex. Crim. App. 1982), “affirmative links” are independent facts and circumstances that link you to the drugs so as to suggest that you had knowledge of the drugs and exercised control over it. In analyzing affirmative links, it is important to understand that it is not the number of links that is important. The court will look at the quality of the links – the “logical” force the affirmative links create to prove that a crime was committed. Taylor v. State, 106 S.W.3d 827, 830 (Dallas, 2003, no pet.)

Examples of instances where Texas criminal appellate courts have found affirmative links in drug cases include: attempting to flee from the police when the officers find you and the contraband; a strong odor of the contraband found at the time the contraband is located, attempts to discard or conceal the drugs; drugs being found in close proximity to your location; acting suspicious toward the contraband or the police when the contraband is located by the police (acting like you recently ingested the drugs or contraband).

If you have been arrested and charged with possession of marijuana, possession of a controlled substance or possession of a dangerous drug in Fort Worth, your number one priority should be to locate an an attorney with experience defending drug possession cases and is familiar with the courts and prosecutors in Tarrant County, Texas. Drug possession in Texas is a serious criminal offense that can require a punishment ranging from 180 days in the Tarrant County jail up to life in prison. If your case facts indicate a possible legal issue related to the police affirmatively linking you to the drugs that were found, it is possible that your case may be dismissed or resolved without a trial or conviction on your record.

Call The Hampton Criminal Defense Attorneys, PLLC now for a free consultation to discuss your legal rights and options under Texas law. Contact Jeff Hampton at 817-877-5200.