A Maryland traffic stop can go from basic to stressful in a matter of moments. What starts out as a basic traffic stop because of an issue with your brake lights or a speed slightly over the limit might lead to an arrest and serious criminal charges.
Officers are always on the lookout for probable cause of criminal activity. If they have any suspicions that you may have engaged in illegal conduct beyond breaking traffic laws, they will ask to search your vehicle. The goal of this process is not to eliminate you as a criminal suspect but rather to find something that justifies arresting you.
You may have given your permission for the search, only to watch in horror as a police officer pulled a baggy of something suspicious out from under the seat or the trunk of your vehicle. You didn’t even know it was there, but now the state has charged you with a drug offense. Can you protect yourself against those charges?
There is a burden of proof on the prosecutor
Facing criminal charges is a stressful experience. Many people want to end the process as quickly as possible. They do this by entering a guilty plea even though they know they didn’t commit a crime. They might think that because the police found something in their vehicle that they have no possible defense.
However, the prosecutor will need to prove that you knew the drugs were in the vehicle and you had control over them. Legal precedent involving the Maryland state Supreme Court has established that the presence of an item in a car is not grounds for criminal charges against the owner or lessee.
Especially if there is no forensic evidence, like fingerprints or DNA, directly tying you to what they found, you may be able to create a reasonable doubt by claiming someone left that item in your vehicle. Anyone from a worker at the place that details your vehicle to the previous owner might be the one actually responsible for those drugs.
A guilty plea does not protect you
Although it can be convenient to put a charge behind you quickly by pleading guilty, you will pay a price for that decision. A drug charge on your record will affect everything from where you can rent a house to what jobs you can seek in the future. While many employers will give you the benefit of the doubt, others will not.
Fighting back against those drug charges is the best way to prevent them from forever limiting your opportunities in life.