As discussed in the previous blog, under certain circumstances, all occupants of a vehicle can be presumed to possess drugs, guns or other weapons found within the vehicle. We also discussed the effect of the presumption on the New York criminal case and went into some detail about the presumption as it applies to New york gun cases and New York Weapon cases.
Now we discuss the vehicle presumption as it applies to New York controlled substance cases. With certain drug possession offenses carrying a mandatory minimum of eight years, the stakes are very high when traveling in a vehicle with someone who may possess illegal drugs. Similar to the gun presumption, New York’s drug presumption applies to all vehicles except public buses (it applies in stolen vehicles unlike the gun presumption). According to a strict reading of the statute, the drug presumption applies to all persons in the vehicle at the time the drugs are found. Since generally the police take all of the occupants out of the vehicle, I would argue that in such a case the presumption does not apply.
Like the gun presumption, the drug presumption does not apply in three circumstances. The presumption does not apply to a cab driver or livery cab driver. It does not apply if a person in the vehicle is authorized to possess the controlled substance (has a prescription for the drug) and the drug is in the same packaging as when he received it. The presumption also does not apply when the drugs are found on the person of one of the occupants.
It is also important to remember that since the presumption only applies to controlled substances and marihuana (or marijuana) is not a controlled substance under New York Law, the presumption does not apply to marihuana.