Home » Blog » Criminal Defense » Operating a car containing drugs- Fairfax criminal lawyer cautions

Operating a car containing drugs- Fairfax criminal lawyer cautions

Call Us: 703-383-1100

Operating a car containing drugs- Fairfax criminal lawyer cautions

Operating a motor vehicle containing contraband risks your being convicted even if unaware of the item’s presence, says Fairfax criminal lawyer

Operating a car that contains drugs, concealed weapons (other than with a concealed carry permit or in a closed container), stolen property, and other contraband risks your being arrested, prosecuted, and even convicted for those items, even if you did not know they were present. As a Fairfax criminal lawyer, I am saddened that so many innocent people get dragnetted into arrests and court trial date appearances for no more evidence than being in close proximity to contraband. However, I know this to be a reality, and caution you about driving cars that have many people entering them, giving rides to people you know little or nothing about, and trying to explain yourself to police who find such contraband, rather than putting the defensive matter in the hands of a qualified Virginia criminal defense lawyer you hire.

If police find drugs in plain view to the driver, the person operating the car is more likely to get a Virginia drug prosecution

Diallo Turner would have done better with his day had he simply not been operating a car, and stayed indoors in mid-2020. Turner v. Commonwealth of Virginia, Record No. 0240-22-2 (Va. App. June 5, 2023) (unpublished). Instead, Turner  drove to a nearby convenience store, and proceeded in the same SUV to eat a sandwich. Police eventually started speaking with him in the parking lot, arrested him on open bench arrest warrants. Incident to arrest, police found marijuana on Turner (when marijuana possession was still unlawful in Virginia). The police either used the finding of marijuana — or else any intent to impound Turner’s vehicle and first inventory it — to search Turner’s vehicle. “In the vehicle’s center console, Deputy Wichowski found an empty pill container, a black tray containing a white substance, and a folded bill with white residue. After an officer advised Turner of his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), Turner stated that the substance on the black tray ‘was his prescription pills cut up.’” However, Turner seems to say that cocaine itself was found on the black tray.

The SODDI (some other dude did it) defense only goes so far at trial

SODDI (some other dude did it) is sometimes the only realistic defense for a criminally accused person, whether expressed initially by the defendant himself, or by his or her lawyer. SODDI was Turner’s defense at his bench trial, but the trial judge did not buy it. Turner’s lawyer heavily relied on that defense at trial and on appeal. Turner — written by a former Fairfax criminal defense lawyer — declines to say that the evidence was insufficient to convict, at least where the cocaine was in plain view to Turner, and where Turner had been operating the same SUV several times, and was saving up funds to purchase it. The trial judge went one further: “The trial court held that Turner’s account ‘impl[ied] that someone, somehow, snuck into the truck, [and] put stuff into the console while [he was] sleeping.'” I disagree. Turner’s testimony seems to say the cocaine on the black tray must have been left in the SUV prior to this incident date. Turner acknowledges that a conviction for drug possession requires knowledge, dominion, and control by the defendant.

Remember your Fourth, Fifth and Sixth Amendment Constitutional rights in your encounters with Virginia police

You have a Fourth Amendment Constitutional right to verbally decline a search by police or and any other law enforcement officer (LEO). You have the Fifth Amendment Constitutional right not to talk with LEO. You have the Sixth Amendment right to be defended by a lawyer. If you waive any of these rights, you may be putting yourself at risk of a worse outcome over time. When he told the police officer about cutting his medicine in relation to the black tray (where police found cocaine), Turner, who was operating the SUV on the incident date, waived his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and Sixth Amendment right to a lawyer. Do not let yourself suffer the same fate as Turner, through his waiving his foregoing rights.

Fairfax criminal lawyer Jonathan Katz does the heavy lifting for you against Virginia DUI, felony and misdemeanor prosecutions. Call 703-383-1100 for your free in-person initial confidential consultation with Jon Katz about your court pending case.