Many people accused of drug offenses get caught with drugs in their purses or their pockets, making it hard for them to defend against the charges they face. However, some people end up accused of drug offenses for simply being in close proximity to contraband or controlled substances.
During a traffic stop, police officers might profile the person involved and ask to search the vehicle despite there being no signs of impairment or reason to suspect major criminal activity. Drivers who want to comply with the police often allow such searches. A small number of those drivers could end up facing criminal charges as a result.
If you drive a used vehicle, the police could find something that you would never expect during a search.
Drug traffickers use vehicles to hide their drugs
Depending on where you buy your vehicle, it could have been property seized during a criminal investigation or resold by someone involved with crime. Someone who died or went to jail may have family members sell their possessions, including their vehicles.
Law enforcement agencies can use civil asset forfeiture to lay claim to property that they believe played a role in drug trafficking or that an individual purchased with proceeds from criminal activity. The agencies will then sell that property at auctions or fundraising sales. Eventually, that vehicle seized from someone involved in drug distribution could find its way to your local market or even a dealership.
There could be drugs hidden under the fabric of the upholstery or inside the wheels. There might even be panels that you can remove from the sides or floor of the vehicle that reveal hidden compartments. If police officers find drugs in one of those hidden locations, they can charge you with a crime even though you never knew those items were there.
Virginia prosecutors will have to prove constructive possession
To successfully charge you with a drug offense when the drugs were not on your person, prosecutors will need to establish constructive possession. They will claim that circumstances indicate you knew the drugs were in the vehicle and that you had control over those drugs.
You could present evidence pushing back against that, such as the lack of your fingerprints on the packages or in the interior of the space where the police found the drugs. Drivers may also find that reviewing the history of the vehicle’s ownership could help them.
Understanding how your used vehicle might put you at risk for drug charges can help you better handle an interaction with the police or respond to allegations after a traffic stop.