With age comes freedom, and with this freedom, sometimes we run into sticky situations. Typically “the talk” that parents dread giving their children is the one about sex and intimacy, but an often missed topic is illegal drugs and what to do when they are around.
Schools rely on health classes and programs like D.A.R.E (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) to teach students about the consequences of drug use. However, despite strategies on how to say no, or making the choice to not use drugs, many people are still pretty clueless when it comes to constructive possession of drugs.
Why a drug talk is important
Besides being told about the addictive and dangerous properties of certain drugs, the conversation around controlled substances often falls short when it comes to the potential legal consequences of drug possession. If you find yourself in a position where illegal drugs are present, it is not always as simple as turning them down, or even leaving to keep yourself out of trouble. Removing yourself from the scene is the easiest way to avoid any legal troubles, but knowing your rights will help you or your child navigate the situation if leaving is not an option.
Being in the presence of illegal substances such as cocaine, ecstasy, heroin or methamphetamine can happen even when we aren’t expecting it. Not knowing what to do in this situation can result in life-changing consequences such as fines or even felony-level drug possession charges.
How common are drug arrests?
Drug-related arrests are the most common, sitting above driving while under the influence, theft and violent crimes. In 2019 there were more than 1.5 million drug law violation arrests, and roughly 87% were not directly related to drug dealing or trafficking charges.
Although we primarily consider drug and legal dealings to be adult issues, it is naive to assume that American youth goes uninfluenced by how the public represents and talks about drugs.
According to the Drug War Facts Organization, teens from as young as 13 consider drugs and alcohol to be reasonably available if they want access to them. Below is a generalized list of the most common drugs and the percentage of how readily available teens perceive them to be:
- Marijuana – 78%
- Hallucinogens – 30%
- LSD – 28%
- Ecstasy – 24%
- Molly – 24%
- Cocaine – 24%
- Sedatives – 24%
- Steroids – 19%
- Crack – 17%
- Heroin – 16%
- Tranquilizers – 15%
A commonality among teen drug use and availability findings is that the older teens get, the higher the likelihood of them coming in contact with drugs.
When you will be held responsible
Unfortunately, Andy Samberg and the cast of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” won’t be there to swoop in and help us out of any sketchy situations we may find ourselves in. Sometimes telling the truth isn’t enough, so here is what you should know about drug possession accountability.
Do you own the drugs?
We all try to stay in control of our space, but when others have access to your room, house, car or business, it’s impossible to know what everyone is doing at every moment. Young adults often live with roommates, which can make this advice even more important. Despite your lack of knowledge, if illegal substances are found in any of these locations where you are the owner, you can be charged for constructive possession of drugs.
For police to search your home, they need to obtain a judge-signed warrant, making the construction of possession charges originating in homes not as likely as those found in vehicles.
Police are allowed to search your car without a warrant when:
- They have probable cause.
- They fear for their safety.
- There is a search warrant.
- You’ve already been arrested.
Officers are taught to rely on their senses. If anything indicates an illegal activity that they can see, smell or hear, it is legal for them to search your vehicle.
Can you say “no” to a police search?
If you give an officer consent to search your vehicle, you are then forgoing your Fourth Amendment rights. In summary, the Fourth Amendment gives you the freedom to deny non-warrant searches, but evoking during a traffic stop can be a Catch-22.
Without probable cause or arrest, it is unlawful for an officer to force a search, but most people comply to show a willingness to cooperate. Doing so is not always in your best interest. Therefore, it is beneficial to practice phrases that politely decline these requests. A simple, but clear “no, I do not consent to a search of my property” should suffice.
What to do if you’re charged with constructive possession
If you have been charged with constructive possession of drugs, what you do moving forward could make immense differences in your case’s results. Each case is different, but here are some general actions to follow.
Emphasize why the drugs are not yours
If there are any indisputable reasons why the substance found could not have been yours, use them to your advantage. A list of reasons to help make your case would be:
- You’re an athlete.
- You have a clean behavioral and criminal record.
- You frequently get drug tested and have tested negative.
- You have health conditions that deter drug usage.
- You couldn’t have had access to the location at the time drugs were found.
Urge the guilty party to tell the truth
Allow this situation to be a lesson about the integrity of those you hang around. If the drugs that led to the constructive possession you are being charged with belonged to a friend, you are essentially choosing whether to tell the full truth or withhold information.
Unfortunately, drug possession charges are serious and will be a hard-earned lesson about who you keep around you in your social circle. If you have a relationship with the actual owner of the substances, you need to express your position’s severity and hope that they will make the right choice and come forward rather than letting you take the blame.
It is never too late to learn that who and what situations we associate ourselves with are a part of our habits. For developing habits to improve your life, start with choosing carefully where and with whom you hang out. Phrases like “birds of a feather flock together” are more than just your grandpa trying to rhyme. These adages become more realistic as we age.
Look around, and if you don’t feel inspired by your current surroundings, it could be time for a change before you find yourself facing harsh life-changing legal decisions.
Get an attorney
Lastly, the best thing to do is hire an attorney to represent you. An attorney will look at the specific details of your case and help you understand what applies to your circumstances.
Feeling the pressure of legal consequences can cause you to make poor decisions, making the guidance of a practicing attorney needed.
Avoid the need for legal advice
Understanding the severity of drug charges is a talk many parents skim over. With influences normalizing drug presence and usage, this issue isn’t going away for children, parents or young adults. Plus, with recreational marijuana legalization in many places, it’s important that the responsible use of these substances is also discussed with younger folks, just in the same way we approach underage drinking.
Knowing what steps to take as an individual or parent so you can avoid the stress of legal charges altogether is the most proactive. Prevention of these negative circumstances comes with both knowledge and practice in handling these situations.
No officer wants to hear, “Those drugs aren’t mine,” and saying so won’t help you in that vital moment of drugs being found in your presence. Hopefully, you are more prepared now to learn about constructive drug possession and what to do if you find yourself in trouble.
This article was written by Danielle Beck-Hunter, who writes and researches for the legal website, FreeAdvice.com. Danielle graduated from the University of Nevada Las Vegas and has also been involved in youth student mentorship programs for several years.
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