Possession of Marijuana: Knowing and Intentional

By Allen, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Kyle T. Therrian
Office Number: (972) 562-7549
24 Hr Jail Release: (214) 403-6522

Consider This Scenario

Four passengers in a vehicle, police discover backpack with marijuana inside the trunk, nobody admits to owning the bag so everyone is arrested for Possession of Marijuana. Officers tell the driver he is responsible for the contents of his vehicle and the passengers that they are simply guilty by association.

This scenario is not an uncommon one. When no one is willing to take the rap and no evidence making one person more culpable than the next, police tend to resolve this conundrum by reducing criminal laws to oversimplified canned catch phrases.

What Does the Law Say?

The notion that a driver or passengers are always responsible for the contents of a vehicle is known as “strict liability” – liability without mental culpability. Drug possession cases are not strict liability offenses. A person commits the offense of Possession of Marijuana if he or she knowingly or intentionally possesses marijuana. One could spend all day making sense of the Penal Code definition for these terms, but it is probably sufficient to say that the law treats them as they are commonly understood. The element of Knowing or Intentional means that there must be some affirmative link between the marijuana and the person accused of possession. Evidence which can establish an affirmative link could include any of the following:

  • If the marijuana was in the plain view
  • If the vehicle or premises smelled strongly of marijuana
  • If the person arrested was under the influence of marijuana
  • If the person arrested made incriminating statements
  • If the person arrested attempted to flee
  • If the person arrested made an attempt to conceal the marijuana
  • If the person arrested was discovered with large amounts of cash

These are all based on case law in which an appellate court has held such evidence may be sufficient to establish the element of knowing or intentional in a Possession of Marijuana case. While some affirmative links are stronger than others, no court has ever ruled that a driver is strictly liable for everything in his or her vehicle and certainly never held someone guilty by association. Don’t rely on an officer’s explanation for why you are guilty and always seek competent legal representation before resolving your possession of marijuana case.


*Kyle Therrian is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice on any case you should contact an attorney directly.

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