Drugs in a car are Everyones Drugs- The Automobile Presumption

A Krock listener called with this story: She was in a car with her 3 friends smoking marijuana, the police came to the car, smelled the smoke, and asked all the vehicles occupants to step out of the car. The girl herself had no marijuana on her person or in her purse, however two of her other friends did, and in the car, was  a drug called “molly”. All of them were charged with possession of the drug. Her question was “How can they charge me when I had nothing on me, especially with a drug found in the car?”

They can and they will. NYS Penal Law section 220.25 provides that
“The presence of a controlled substance in an automobile, other than a public omnibus, is presumptive evidence of knowing possession thereof by each and every person in the automobile at the time such controlled substance was found…”
This is known as the Automobile Presumption.

But what about Due Process, that protects against loss of life, liberty, or property without fairness? The rationale of this statutory presumption lives through the due process clause because a) The law could make the conduct a crime in and of itself; b) A rational connection exists between proven and presumed fact; c) It is easier for the defendant to disprove than the prosecution to prove the presumed fact. We should note that these presumptions also apply in cases such as stolen goods, and crimes such as robbery.

The take home message here, choose your friends wisely. The people you choose to associate yourself with could impact your life, as well as your criminal record. Certainly, there are constitutional questions and defenses to be raised in such circumstances.  If you find yourself charged with a crime of this nature, it is imperative that you contact an experienced, knowledgeable criminal attorney in your state. If your charges are in Onondaga, Oneida, Madison, or Jefferson County and have additional questions, don’t hesitate to give us a call at 315-701-2939 or  CONTACT OUR OFFICE Online.

See related articles:

What are my rights if I am stopped, searched, or arrested by police?

Do I have to take a breathalyzer test if the police ask me to?

What is Drug Court and could it help me?

What you should know about Probable Cause

NY Room Presumption- Guns and Drugs belong to everyone


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