Can the cops arrest you if they found something in your car but you weren’t in it?

UPDATED: Oct 2, 2022

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Can the cops arrest you if they found something in your car but you weren’t in it?

My wife and I had a flat in walmart parking lot. I went in and trued to find tire but forgot something and had to step back out to the car. Whem I headed out cops were surrounding our car and her. I panicked. She likes to get high and i never really kniw what she has on her. They were searching the car when I went back in to gather thoughts. If they would have found something , never seeing me in car, could they have chargrd me also?

Asked on August 24, 2019 under Criminal Law, Mississippi


SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 3 years ago | Contributor

Yes, they could have charged you, too, if the evidence--like finding drugs in a car you own or were driving--suggested they were your drugs (either wholly yours or that you and she were "sharing" them). It's one thing, for example, to find drugs only in her purse or backpack or pocket; it's another to find them under the car's seat or in the glove box or a cupholder, etc., which suggests they belonged to the driver or owner.
Even if you had been charged, that would not guaranty you'd be convicted: to convict requires proof "beyond a reasonable doubt" and the authorities might not be able to prove that the drugs were yours to that standard. But to be charges just requires "probable cause" which is a much lower standard of proof or evidence.

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