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Can you get in trouble for drugs your passenger has in Indiana?

On Behalf of | May 3, 2024 | Drug Crimes

Being pulled over by law enforcement officers can be a stressful experience. But what happens if the officer finds drugs in your car, and they weren’t yours? 

In the Hoosier State, even passengers could face drug possession charges under a concept called constructive possession. Understanding how constructive possession applies can help you know what you can do to protect yourself if you find yourself in this situation.

Understanding constructive possession

Drug possession laws typically fall under two categories: actual possession and constructive possession. Actual possession is straightforward; the drugs are found on your person or in a place you have direct control over, like your purse or backpack. Constructive possession is more complex. It applies when the drugs are not on you but somewhere you have a level of control, like in the car you’re driving.

For a law enforcement officer to establish constructive possession, they must demonstrate that you knew about the drugs and could control them. The location of the drugs plays a big role. Drugs found hidden under the driver’s seat or in the glove compartment are more likely to be linked to the driver than drugs found in a passenger’s backpack.

Passengers and constructive possession

So, can your passenger be charged with drug possession found in your car? The answer is yes. State courts have consistently upheld the use of constructive possession against passengers. This means if drugs are found in the car, both the driver and passengers could be arrested, even if they claim they didn’t know about the drugs.

Riding with a passenger who has drugs can land you in hot water in Indiana. Understanding constructive possession and your rights is crucial. Should you find yourself in this situation, remember to stay calm, invoke your rights and seek legal counsel immediately.