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Lets say there is a person who rents a car out to a friend. This arrangement goes well for the first few months. Then a large amount of illegal drugs are discovered in the car while the friend is driving. The friend is pulled over and then tells the officer that the drugs are not his and that they are the car owners. (in this hypothetical the drugs are actually the friends and not the car owners)

In the most likely case who is held responsible for the drugs found in the car?

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    It sounds like maybe you shouldn’t rent your car to this person.
    – Sneftel
    Feb 28, 2023 at 8:08
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    BTW, in this situation, “whose drugs they are” is not your only problem.
    – Sneftel
    Feb 28, 2023 at 8:10

2 Answers 2

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Both the police and the courts are likely to look at the situation as a whole, rather than adopting any policy specifically in relation to drivers or owners.

For example, it's unusual for people to rent cars to their friends for months on end. That might suggest there is something untoward about the arrangement.

Is there evidence of the commercial arrangement, or is the owner pretending to have rented the car out for months, when in reality they had stashed the drugs then let a friend borrow the car for a day?

It would also be unlikely for a drug dealer to stash a large amount of drugs in a car then lend the car out on a long-term basis, so if the car is out of the owner's hands, that would tend to suggest the drugs belong to the person in possession of the car (and not the owner).

But if the amount of drugs were small, typical of personal use, then it becomes more credible to imagine they could be forgotten by the car owner before lending the car to a friend.

Police intelligence might also have a bearing. Does one party or the other have known links to the drugs trade?

Also, is the lifestyle of one or the other, in particular, inconsistent with known sources of legitimate income?

My point with all these questions is to highlight how sensitive the issue is to the fine details of the circumstances, and that it's impossible to give a strictly general answer.

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The driver of the car is responsible since they are in possession of it.

The only situation that the driver might be able to escape a drug conviction is if they're passengers with them at the time of the stop and the location of the drugs is not in the immediate vicinity of the driver.

For example, if there are drugs in the trunk and neither the driver or passengers admit to owning the drugs. Likely everyone in the car will go to jail but a decent attorney would likely get the charges dismissed.

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