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Can police arrest a driver for drugs hidden in their vehicle?

On Behalf of | Jul 17, 2023 | Drug Crimes

Many people in Oklahoma think of traffic stops as inconvenient and frustrating. They know that police officers often write expensive tickets that may increase how much they have to pay for insurance over what seems like a minor traffic infraction. However, the most serious traffic infractions, like impaired or reckless driving, may lead to someone’s arrest rather than a citation. There are also times when an interaction that someone has with a police officer will lead to their arrest for an offense that does not relate to driving at all.

An example would be when police officers find contraband in a vehicle. Can Oklahoma prosecute someone if an officer finds drugs in a vehicle?

The circumstances determine the risks for the motorist

The simplest possession cases often involve an individual who has a prohibited or controlled substance directly in their possession. When the police find methamphetamine, for example, in someone’s pockets or purse, then putting together a criminal case against that individual for possession will be a straightforward process.

However, some people face charges simply because they are close to the drugs that police officers find even though the drugs are not in their immediate possession. The legal term for this scenario is constructive possession. The state will try to convince the courts that the person arrested was aware of the presence of the drugs and effectively had control over them. Oftentimes, the owner or operator of the vehicle will be the one facing charges even if they claim they were unaware of the presence of the drugs.

How might a motorist fight constructive possession claims?

A careful evaluation of the circumstances at the time of someone’s arrest is often necessary to put together a defense strategy for an individual facing drug charges based on constructive possession. Perhaps they frequently transport other people in their vehicle, and fingerprints on the drug packaging indicate that someone else handled the items. Maybe what police officers found was in such an unusual or hidden location that the motorist had no awareness of its presence.

Those facing charges will often need to look over the state’s evidence carefully with an attorney and then plan a defense strategy accordingly. Undermining claims of constructive possession may be a useful defense strategy for someone who has been accused of a drug crime in Oklahoma.


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