Have you ever been in a situation where there are two or three people in a car and drugs are present? The police conduct a traffic stop for speeding and no one takes responsibility for the drugs and all three of you get arrested. You decide to defend your good name because you're not responsible for the drugs. This is exactly what happened in the case of Brooks vs. State of Alabama, a case from Baldwin County, Alabama.
Darius Brooks was convicted of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. During the trial at officer testified that he had stopped a car for speeding. The police saw Brooks in the backseat and an opened cigarette pack by his leg. The officer testified that he smelled marijuana and then began to search the vehicle. During the course of the search, the officer found cocaine in the cigarette pack. None of the three individuals in the car claimed possession of the cigarette pack. The officer arrested all three for possession of a controlled substance.
During the trial there was evidence presented that the rental car was not even rented in Brooks name. After the state presented its case, Brooks moved the court for a judgment acquittal. Brooks argued that the state had failed to prove he was in possession of a controlled substance and failed to prove that he knew drugs were present in the pack. The trial court let the case proceed to the jury and Brooks was convicted. Brooks appealed his conviction.
The court of criminal appeals reversed the decision. The appellate court held in order to establish constructive possession, the state must prove 1) actual or potential physical control 2) intent or to exercise Dominion and 3) external manifestations of intent and control. The court ruled that all three people in the car may have had knowledge of the drugs but mere suspicion is not enough.
Further, the court stated while establishing close proximity to an illegal substance is relevant to show knowledge of its presence, however, this alone is insufficient to prove the required knowledge necessary to support a finding of constructive possession in this case there was no evidence presented establishing that Brooks had knowledge of the contraband contained within the cigarette pack. Finally, the court held there was no other evidence to connect Brooks to the illegal substance other than his presence in the vehicle and his close proximity to the cigarette pack.