There are a lot of variables that affect the police officer’s decision of who gets arrested in a situation like this. Typically, the guy who gets arrested is the one who gets scared, opens his mouth, and takes the blame. Or maybe it will be the one with a prior criminal history (see the Expunction information on our site).
The crime of possession means, you are intentionally or knowingly in possession of contraband (something illegal), in this example marijuana. This means that you are exercising care, control and management over the contraband and that you know what you have is contraband. For example, you go to the grocery store and buy a bag of powdered sugar, but it turns out that is actually cocaine in the powdered sugar bag. Because you don’t know that bag is actually cocaine and not powdered sugar, you cannot intentionally or knowingly be in possession. Remember that the crime of “Possession” is not limited to one person. This definition means that more than one person can be charged with possessing a single piece of contraband.
If you and three friends are in car that a police officer has found marijuana in, he could potentially arrest everyone in the car. Police officers will use this to their advantage. They will threaten to take everyone to jail unless one person admits it is theirs. An admission to possession makes the state’s case against you stronger, but that confession is not a get out of jail free card for your friends. All three of you may end up going to jail and then if the seizure was valid one of you may end up eating the conviction to make the charges go away against the other two.
In order for someone to be “in possession” there must be an affirmative link between the contraband and the person accused of possessing it. The affirmative link does not have to be concrete or direct evidence; it can be circumstantial. Things like your behavior, who the car is registered to, who is driving, and your location in the car compared to the contraband, are all pieces of circumstantial evidence that can an officer can use to decide if you are “in possession”.
The bottom line is that you have a duty to know the people you are hanging out with and it is especially important to know if they have something illegal in their car or on their person. I say if you’re going to get busted for somebody else’s stuff you ought to at least be aware of the risk.