Can I Be Arrested For My Roommate’s Drugs?

Posted On: October 13th, 2016 by Bradley J. Groene

You made a mistake in choosing your roommate. He seemed like a really nice guy when you first moved in, but you found out several weeks later that he keeps large quantities of various drugs in your apartment in Cincinnati. You don’t want to move out because the rent is unbelievably cheap, but you are concerned about whether and what criminal charges you might face as a result of your roommate’s behavior. Unfortunately, you could be charged with constructive possession of those drugs and, if this is unfortunate enough to happen to you, then you should contact experienced Cincinnati criminal defense attorney Brad Groene of Luftman, Heck & Associates by calling (513) 338-1890 or online to discuss your situation and your potential legal options.

Constructive Possession of Drugs Under Ohio Law

It turns out you are right to be concerned. Constructive possession of drugs is a criminal drug offense in Ohio that could potentially apply to you in this situation. The Ohio statute relating to this offense provides that possession “occurs when an individual has ‘control over a thing or substance, but may not be inferred solely from mere access to the thing or substance through ownership or occupation of the premises upon which the thing or substance is found.’” Nevertheless, the Ohio Supreme Court has held that statute can be used to charge someone with actual or constructive possession of drugs. Constructive possession occurs when “an individual exercises dominion and control over an object, even though that object may not be within his immediate physical possession.”

However, before you start panicking, realize that the prosecution must, from a factual and evidentiary standpoint, present enough evidence to convince the judge or jury beyond a reasonable doubt (a very high hurdle) that (i) you exercised dominion or control over your roommate’s drugs and (ii) you had access to those drugs. These are difficult hurdles than an experienced defense attorney may be able to attack even before you have been officially charged with a crime.

The Ohio Supreme Court Ruled on This Issue in a 2010 Cincinnati Case

Indeed, the Ohio Supreme Court actually ruled on this very issue in a case from Cincinnati in 2010. Although this case, Ohio v. Mitchell, involved drugs that were found in a car and also involved charges against an individual for constructive possession under Cincinnati’s municipal code rather than under Ohio state law, it is instructive in terms of showing what both police and the courts look for when determining constructive possession of drugs by an individual.

In the case, a passenger in the backseat of a vehicle that was stopped for driving without its headlights on was charged with constructive possession of marijuana in violation of a subsection of Cincinnati’s municipal code that was found by a police officer in the seat pocket of the seat in front of which he was riding. After he was convicted of constructive possession of the marijuana, the passenger challenged his conviction to the Ohio Supreme Court, which concluded there was insufficient evidence to convict the defendant of constructive possession of the marijuana. The key to the court’s decision was the fact that the prosecution could not show that the defendant was aware of the existence of the marijuana, despite its close proximity to where he was sitting in the car.

How Courts and Police Determine Constructive Possession of Drugs?

Among the factors that the police and courts will look at in determining whether you can be charged and convicted of constructive possession of drugs in Ohio is how close in proximity the drugs were to you personally, to what extent and how long you were aware of the drugs’ existence before being arrested/charged as well as whether you exercised any dominion or control over the drugs. As the Ohio Supreme Court noted in the Mitchell decision, “proximity to an object alone does not constitute constructive possession; it must also be shown that the individual was ‘conscious of the presence of the object.’”

To successfully convict you of constructive possession of drugs, a prosecutor will need to show not only that you were aware of your roommate’s drugs in the apartment, but that those drugs were in close proximity to you. Because constructive possession is an extremely-fact intensive inquiry, an experienced criminal defense attorney will be able to mount a vigorous defense to challenge constructive possession charges against you.

An experienced criminal defense attorney may be able to dissuade a prosecutor from even charging you in the first place if your attorney is able to show that either (i) you were not aware of the drugs’ existence in your apartment or (ii) the drugs were all in a locked cabinet in your roommate’s bedroom, to which you did not have access. This likely would be a completely different scenario if you voluntarily agreed to let your roommate store some of his drugs in a locked cabinet in your own bedroom to which only you had access. The result could be completely different in that particular scenario.

Contact Attorney Brad Groene if You’ve Been Arrested for Constructive Possession of Drugs

If you have been arrested or charged with possession of drugs or any criminal drug offense in the greater Cincinnati area or northern Kentucky, contact experienced Cincinnati criminal defense attorney Brad Groene of Luftman, Heck & Associates. There are potential defenses to the charge of constructive possession of drugs that an experienced Cincinnati criminal defense attorney like Brad can help clients to assert.

Brad is available 24/7 to discuss your legal situation and can be reached by calling (513) 338-1890 or by completing our online form to discuss your situation and your potential legal options.