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Noble County Possession of Marijuana Conviction Reversed for Passenger in Vehicle

The Indiana Court of Appeals found that the State failed to prove a Noble County man was in constructive possession of marijuana. The defendant was the passenger in a vehicle, which was pulled over for a traffic violation. An officer detected the odor of marijuana coming from the vehicle, along with signs of illegal drug activity. A police K-9 reacted to the passenger door and trunk. Police then discovered 216 grams of marijuana and scales in the trunk of the car.

The defendant reportedly acted nervous, but denied any knowledge of the marijuana, despite having marijuana flakes on his shirt. The defendant was arrested for possession of marijuana in an amount greater than thirty grams, a Class D felony. He was subsequently convicted at trial.

The defendant appealed his conviction arguing that there was insufficient evidence to prove he possessed the marijuana, because he was a passenger and did not own the vehicle; and there was no evidence that he had to intent or ability to control the marijuana in the trunk. The Indiana Court of Appeals reversed the defendant’s conviction in an unpublished decision. The Court found that the defendant made no incriminating statements, did not attempt to flee, and the marijuana was not in his plain view or even in the passenger compartment. Furthermore, the defendant had no ownership in the vehicle. The Court held that the State failed to prove that defendant had constructive possession of the marijuana in the trunk.

The mere presence of a passenger in a car transporting marijuana is insufficient to find the passenger guilty of possession. To prove constructive possession, the State must prove the passenger had the intent and capability to maintain control over the marijuana. If you are a passenger in a car stopped for a drug investigation, it is extremely important to stay calm and exercise your right to remain silent. The State has the burden of proof in criminal cases, and an experienced criminal defense attorney can defend your rights.