You do not use marijuana yourself, but a friend with a prescription has left his supply with you while he takes care of some other business. If an officer discovers you with the marijuana in your possession, should you tell him or her you are simply holding it for your friend?
From the officer's point of view, you are a person in possession of an illegal substance because you do not have a valid prescription. Even though it may be the truth, if you tell the officer that you had the substance because a friend asked you to hold it temporarily, this tells an officer you were aware the substance was within your dominion. This admission could make the impending trial much harder.
Evidence that shows you knew of the substance's presence
A valid defense may be that you had no idea the marijuana was in your property because in order for possession charges to stick, you need to have been aware. Claiming a friend left it indicates you knew the drug was around and chose to keep it. The prosecution will use whatever evidence is available to show you knew the drug was around, including the following:
- Whether the drug was in plain view
- Whether you acted suspiciously during the arrest
- Whether the substance was in a bedroom
- Whether the substance was within your other personal items
Another factor is whether the home is an exclusive or nonexclusive occupancy. For example, someone living in an apartment where one person uses marijuana illegally may be able to defend against a conviction by claiming he or she had no knowledge the roommate used the substance.
Marijuana possession still carries extreme penalties in West Virginia. A conviction can lead to a fine up to $1,000 for a first offense as well as up to six months in jail.