Say you (a completely innocent and law abiding citizen) buy a used car whose previous life was dedicated to smuggling drugs and/or drug money in hidden compartments throughout, which was somehow forgotten or neglected prior to the car being sold. You get pulled over and a narcotics officer discovers the contraband. Would there be any possible way the “it’s not mine!” line would work, or would you be completely and utterly SOL? Has there ever been a real life case similar to this? If so, what was the outcome?
Absolutely! Can’t find the cite right now but, about four years ago,
An elderly couple bought a used car and took it to the repair shop because they didn’t like the way the engine ran. Eventually the repairman found drugs hidden in the gas tank. Apparently they in sealed pouches that interfered with fuel leaving the gas tank. The police were called and decided the couple had no idea. It probably helped that the car was in police custody before being sold at auction.
I am not a lawyer, but on many episodes of COPS it’s been stated that if its in your car, you can be charged for it. There have been a few episodes where there was one or more passengers in the car, and the drugs were found in the passenger seat or the backseat. The cops would generally indicate that unless someone else stepped up and took responsibility for it, the driver would be charged.
My guess is that you’d definitely get busted and taken to jail. In court, if you had proof that the vehicle was previously used to smuggle drugs, you might be able to challenge it. But as I said, I’m not a lawyer, so I don’t know how well that would work.
Didn’t this almost happen to a Doper? IIRC he or she found a bag of crack cocaine when cleaning the car and rang the police immediately.
Money and luck would probably come into play here. I’m thinkin’ if you’re a guy with a record who legitimately bought a car with a stash hidden away, the cops are going to pin it on you. A dream team might get you off, but not many can afford that kind of representation.
I don’t know how US law works but I had friends who had reason to have dealings with major Australian drug defense lawyers (the kind that if you see them in court for someone you know they are guilty) and they say this kind of talk is bullshit. Their lawyer use to tell them that if you are arrested you say nothing, not even denials. He said that it is incredibly difficult for the police to prove who owns a stash found in the presence of several people, if no-one says anything. So the cops will say “unless someone steps up the driver will be charged.” in the hope that the driver will blab or the owner will blab. But if no-one does, when it gets to court and the driver, having given no statement, says he wasn’t aware of any drugs in the car, then the police need to provide physical evidence. And they can’t and won’t waste anyones time trying.
The lawyer use to say that the only thing the cops have on their side is the stupidity of the people they arrest, all the law is against them.
Why in God’s name would someone do that? Throw it away; call a lawyer. Never call the cops.
I remember an episode of Cops where a woman was sitting in a convenience store parking lot. She had just called the cops and said she had proof that they were selling drugs out of a house in her neighborhood. According to her, she had suspicions, called the police before, and the police told her that unless they had proof that they were selling drugs out of the house, they couldn’t do anything.
So, Ms. Genius is sitting here in the lot with her windshield broken. Apparantly, she went to the house, bought a bag of crack, and told the drug dealers that they were now “in trouble”. The proceeded to break her windshield and fire shots at her as she drove away to call the cops.
Now she produces this bag of crack and tells the officer “See, I have proof now!”.
Long story short. She goes to jail for possession of crack cocaine. Nobody said if they even went to the crack house. Sure, this woman was an idiot, but you think common sense would prevail on this…