Can they convict me of it: Police found drugs in the car I was a passenger in, but they're not mine.

Here's the fact pattern for this edition of Can They Convict Me Of It?:

I rode with someone I had just met to see a couple of girls. When we left we got pulled over. The police found several different drugs in the vehicle and enough of one of them to charge us both with trafficking. I wasn't driving, the car wasn't mine, and they found nothing on me. I have bonded out and waiting on my court date. Can they convict me of this even though I knew nothing, had nothing on me, and I have no prior drug charges while the driver has had several.

The short answer is hell yes they can.

The long answer is that the State would probably rely on a theory called "joint constructive possession." In Georgia, you can be charged with actual possession, meaning you have direct control over the drugs, like the dope's in your pocket, or constructive possession, meaning you know where the drugs are located and you intend to exert control over them in the future, like the dope's in your closet at home. Possession can be sole, meaning only you exert control over the drug, or it can be joint, meaning you and others exert control over it. Here, the State would argue that you and the driver both knew the drugs were in the car and were going to either use them or sell them later (considering they found enough drugs to charge you with trafficking).

Of course, just being around drugs is not enough for you to be convicted. We call this "spacial proximity;" the State would have to overcome mere spacial proximity for a jury to convict you. The State needs to show that you knew the drugs were there and that you intended to exercise control over them. The State may rely on circumstantial evidence, like an odor from the drugs so strong that you could have smelled them; the visibility of the drugs, so you would have seen them; that you were acting nervous, evasive, strange, etc. because you knew the drugs were there; that your eyes were bloodshot, that you smelled of drugs, that you were acting jittery, etc to show that you had used the drugs; text messages, photos, or call logs from your phone to show that you knew the drugs were there or had arranged to transport them; posts from social medial showing that you use drugs; and so on.

If the State can exclude every other reasonable possibility except for your guilt, then the jury is authorized to find you guilty.

Of course, many folk are arrested for drug charges only because they're in the wrong place at the wrong time. In cases like these, it's critical to hire a good criminal defense attorney as soon as possible because evidence is being lost every minute you wait. For example, I would have a laboratory test your blood and hair for drugs immediately to show that you haven't used any. Marijuana will stay in the body for 30 days, but cocaine or methamphetamine will only last for 48-72 hours, or perhaps a little bit longer for habitual users. But if you are accused of trafficking meth and the blood that was drawn two days after your arrest is clean, then I can use that fact to show that you had no idea the drugs were there because you're not about that life.

In cases like this there is a lot to fight over with the State before the case reaches trial, and some good arguments to make to the jury. It's definitely a situation where early intervention by defense counsel makes a difference.