The Texas Penal Code classifies drugs into one of several categories. Possession of marijuana is classified in its own category. The potential punishment under the law depends on the amount or weight of the drug, a topic for another blog.
In order to be convicted of drug possession, the state’s prosecuting attorney must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the person knowingly or intentionally possessed or was in control of the drug and did not have a prescription for the drug for medical reasons.
A person acts intentionally, or with intent, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to a result of his conduct when it is his conscious objective or desire to engage in the conduct or cause the result. A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to the nature of his conduct or to circumstances surrounding his conduct when he is aware of the nature of his conduct or that the circumstances exist. A person acts knowingly, or with knowledge, with respect to a result of his conduct when he is aware that his conduct is reasonably certain to cause the result.
Under Texas law, “Possession” means actual care, custody, control, or management. So, the state’s attorney must, at a minimum, be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the person engaged in the culpable conduct of possessing the drug; that is, that the person voluntarily exercised actual care, custody or control of the drug when he was aware of the nature of his conduct or that those circumstances that surrounded his conduct existed.
What happens when drugs are found in a car full of people? Who gets charged in this scenario? In Texas, this depends on “affirmative links,” or secondary facts that demonstrate the accused person’s knowledge and control of the drugs. Where an individual is not in exclusive possession of the car where the drugs are found, as in a car with multiple passengers, to prove an accused person possessed the drugs, the State must present facts that demonstrate links between the accused and the drugs.
Affirmative links describe the circumstantial evidence that prove the accused’s intent to possess the drugs. Police will investigate vehicles to learn about surrounding facts that link drugs to particular people.
An affirmative link is an element of unlawful possession of a drug offense that the State must prove to connect an accused person to the drugs. An individual’s mere presence in a place where drugs are found is not enough to establish possession. The State must also prove some affirmative link between the accused and the drugs. This link help shows that the person intended to possess the drugs. The weight of the evidence surrounding the affirmative links is determined by either the judge or the jury and must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Courts have identified many non-exhaustive factors that may help to show an affirmative link to contraband. Factors include: whether the drugs were (1) in plain view; (2) conveniently accessible to the accused; (3) in a place owned by the accused; (4) in a car driven by the accused; (5) found on the same side of the car as the accused; or (6) found in an enclosed space; and whether (7) the drug’s odor was present; (8) drug paraphernalia was in view of or found on the accused; (9) the accused’s conduct indicated a consciousness of guilt; (10) the accused had a special relationship to the drug; (11) the car’s occupants gave conflicting statements about relevant matters; (12) the physical condition of the accused indicated recent consumption of the drug found in the car; and (13) affirmative statements connected the accused to the drug. The number of linking factors present is not as important as the “logical force” they create to prove that the crime was committed.
Long story short: whether or not there are sufficient affirmative links between the accused and the drug is fact-specific. The facts and circumstances of every case are different. If you are charged with a drug crime, contact The Hardy Law Group to schedule a complimentary consultation with our experienced criminal defense attorneys.