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Felony Possession of a Controlled Substance in a Car

By Richard J. Blok, Idaho Criminal Defense Attorney

A simple traffic stop can ruin your day but if the police find drugs in your car it can ruin your life. You can be charged with a felony in Idaho for possessing a very small amount of drugs in your vehicle which means that many casual drug users, addicts, and even folks who are trying something for the first time can very well get caught up in the worst of the criminal justice system. In Idaho, between 2007 and 2014, a total of 83.6% of all drug related arrests were for possession and many of these arrests happened after a traffic stop. If you have been charged with a crime in Idaho, the lawyers at Racine Olson, PLLP can walk you through every step and prepare you for the best defense possible.

Reasonable Suspicion versus Probable Cause: Can the police legally search my vehicle?

Reasonable Suspicion: In order for the police to stop and search your car they need reasonable articulable suspicion that you are violating a law or traffic rule. In practice, this is pretty easy for them to get. If an officer follows anyone for long enough, the driver of the vehicle is likely to do something imperfect such as weaving slightly over the line, going too fast or too slow, neglecting to use a turning signal or simply forgetting to turn your turning signal off are all traffic violations that will give the police reasonable suspicion.

Probable Cause: Probable cause is a slightly higher standard that is required for police to arrest. The police need probable cause that a crime has been committed, and must be able to articulate this with specific facts. A few examples of probable cause include a dog sniff, the smell of marijuana or visual drug paraphernalia such as a pipe.

Drug dogs are a common way for way for police in Idaho to get probable cause. During K9 stops the police can take a dog around your car as long as it does not extend the time for a normal stop. Given that a normal traffic stop can be quite long, it is fairly easy for the local K9 unit to show up and walk around your car. Police dogs are highly effective so if they show up and you have something in the car, you will most likely be arrested.

The police can search a vehicle without a warrant or probable cause if the driver gives them permission. Never give the police permission to search your car! Let me say that again just to be clear. Never give the police permission to search your car! If a police officer is asking if he can search your vehicle, it is usually because he does not have probable cause.

Plain view is when the police can see something when they look through the window or an open door. It doesn’t take much. If they can see the top of a baggie or part of a pipe, they can establish plain view.

Fighting Arrest for Possession of a Controlled Substance

If you have been arrested by the police in Idaho for drug possession you are in a for fight to prove your innocence. Even though people are innocent until proven guilty under the law, the mere presence of drugs makes most jurors think you are guilty. That being said, depending on the circumstances, these cases are defendable. The qualified and experienced Idaho criminal defense lawyers at Racine Olson can work with you to figure out where the holes are and how to defend your case.

The primary way to fight arrest is by challenging the means by which the evidence was obtained. First, the State has to prove that the substance was illegal. If it is pills that the police find, you must be able to prove that the pills in question are the kind of pills you say they are. The State must prove that you do not have a valid prescription. If you have been arrested with illegal drugs like heroin, meth, or cocaine, the State has to prove that what they found are, in fact, illegal drugs through lab testing.

Second, the controlled substance has to be yours. The State has to prove that you had control or possession of the substance. In other words, they have to prove that they are yours and do not belong to anyone else in the vehicle. For example, if you are in the back seat and a bag of drugs is found on the seat next to you, the police have to prove that they are your drugs. The police must confirm that the drugs do not belong to the driver or the front seat passenger.

Third, did you know the drugs were there? Did you have any knowledge of their whereabouts? If your roommate borrows your car and leaves some drugs in the back seat, you might not have knowledge of that. In reality, if you get arrested in a situation like this, it is an uphill battle to prove your innocence. The police, prosecutors, judges and juries assume that everything in your car belongs to you. In order to prove otherwise, you need someone to blame, a good logical story on why to blame them, and it does not hurt to have some luck and good character witnesses.

Putting together a defense when the deck is stacked against you can be difficult. You will need a solid defense strategy if you find yourself in this situation. At Racine Olson, the criminal defense lawyers will fight for your legal rights and increase your odds of a favorable outcome. If you are looking for a lawyer who will fight for you, call us today.

Contact Us

The knowledgeable, experienced, and diligent attorneys at Racine Olson, PLLP are here to help you and your family when you need it the most. Whether a misdemeanor or felony, our Idaho criminal defense attorneys are prepared to guide you through the legal process and fight for you at every turn. Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a free consultation with the Racine Olson, PLLP team of criminal defense attorneys. You can also email us directly at We stand ready to answer your questions and help solve your criminal defense needs.

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