Defenses to Possession of Drugs in an Automobile in Georgia
Every charge of Violating the Georgia Controlled Substances Act (VGCSA) by possessing an illegal substance requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant actually knew that they were actually possessing the illegal substance. Particular attention needs to be given to those drug charges in which the defendant is alleged to possess illegal drugs that were not actually on the defendant’s person at the time of the arrest.
The criminal intent which the State is required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt is the intent to possess a drug with knowledge of the chemical identity of that drug. The State is required to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the Defendant was in possession of the drug, which he knows himself to possess, when that drug is a controlled substance. Duvall v. State, 289 Ga. 540, 542, 712 S.E.2d 850, 851 (2011)
WHAT IS THE STATE’S ARGUMENT THAT THE DRIVER OF A VEHICLE POSSESSED DRUGS IN A VEHICLE BUT WERE NOT ACTUALLY ON THE PERSON AT THE TIME OF ARREST?
The contents of an automobile are presumed to be those of one who operates and is in charge of it. Williams v. State, 129 Ga.App. 103, 106, 198 S.E.2d 683 (1973). “Where immediate and exclusive possession of an automobile … is shown, the inference is authorized that the owner of such property is the owner of what is contained therein, and this inference has been referred to as a rebuttable presumption. [Cit.]” Watson v. State, 93 Ga.App. 368, 91 S.E.2d 832 (1956). Chambers v. State, 162 Ga. App. 722, 722-23, 293 S.E.2d 20, 21 (1982).
THE EQUAL ACCESS DEFENSE TO DRUG POSSESSION CHARGES IN GEORGIA
If the jury determines that a person or people other than the defendant had an equal opportunity to possess or place the illegal drugs in the vehicle, then the defendant should be acquitted, unless it is shown beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knowingly possessed the contraband or shared possession or control with another person and helped or procured the other person in possessing and having control of the contraband.
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