What happens to people who are just "in the wrong place at the wrong time"?
Under a legal theory known as "constructive possession," being in close proximity to drugs can be enough, under certain circumstances, to justify an arrest and result in a conviction for everyone who was close enough to the drugs for police and a jury to conclude that the drugs could have belonged to them.
Constructive possession cases often arise as a result of traffic stops, during which drugs are located in a center console or other central location that could conceivably be reached by more than one person in the car. Arrests based on constructive possession are also made when drugs are found in a residence or in a room within a residence, and more than one person is present who could arguably be the owner of the drugs.
In theory, this approach keeps criminals from slipping through the cracks of the criminal justice system by simply removing their drugs from their personal possession as soon as law enforcement arrives, thereby avoiding prosecution altogether. Practically speaking, it means that students should be aware of their surroundings and avoid situations where drugs may be present, even if the student does not actually intend to use or handle the drugs himself. Assuming or trusting a friend or acquaintance will take the responsibility for any drugs found has proven to be a critical mistake for many young people.
This information was provided by the Mobile County [AL] District Attorney's Office and is intended to give USA students a legal perspective on what being involved with illegal drugs can mean for their futures. Students are encouraged to be aware of this information when they make decisions about who to hang out with, where to go, and what to do. It should be noted that the legal information provided only encompasses the law of the State of Alabama.
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