In a recent case before an appeals court in Arizona, the defendant asked that the court decide that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for drug possession. The court disagreed with the defendant, affirming his guilty verdict. The court’s opinion highlights the fact that, even if you are not driving a car that is registered in your name, you could still be liable for the car’s contents.
Facts of the Case
According to the opinion, police officers conducted a routine traffic stop one evening by pulling over the defendant’s wife. The defendant’s wife was driving the car registered in the defendant’s name, and upon conducting the traffic stop, the officers found drug paraphernalia and methamphetamine in the vehicle. The defendant was indicted on possession of dangerous drugs and possession or use of drug paraphernalia.
The defendant pled not guilty, and his case went to trial. After a jury found him guilty, the defendant promptly appealed the verdict.
In his appeal, the defendant argued that it was his wife driving the car, not him. There was not, therefore, sufficient evidence for a jury to find that he possessed the paraphernalia and the drugs, and his conviction should be reversed.
The court was not convinced by the defendant’s argument. To start, wrote the court, it is possible for more than one person to own incriminating items in a car. Secondly, there was evidence that the defendant did actually possess the paraphernalia and drugs. There was paraphernalia on the passenger floorboard on the driver’s side of the car, leading a reasonable person to believe that the car’s driver would have known about its presence. The car was also full of items like men’s clothing that made the jury believe the defendant had recently used the vehicle.
These facts, combined with the fact that the car was registered to the defendant, were enough to convince a reasonable jury that the defendant was guilty. With that, the court affirmed the original verdict. Its opinion serves as a reminder that if you own a car, or if you are responsible in any way for a car, you could be liable for its contents even when you are not driving it. If you have questions about how this ruling might apply to you, contact a knowledgeable Arizona criminal defense attorney today.
Do You Need Legal Representation in Arizona?
If you or a loved one has been criminally charged in Arizona, give us a call at the Law Office of James E. Novak. Our team’s expertise is handling criminal charges with as much precision as possible, with the goal of getting your charges dropped as soon as possible. If you are looking for aggressive and personalized representation, call us today for a free and confidential consultation at (480) 413-1499. You can also fill out our online form to tell us about your case and have an attorney reach back out to you as soon as possible.