Constructive possession unfairly gets some teenagers in trouble with the law

By Carolyn Perlmutter | News Editor

Each generation has a problem that society feels must be tackled. In the 1980s teenagers were told to “Just Say No.” Now, saying no to drugs and alcohol is not enough, since minor in possession laws have been extended to include the concept of constructive possession.

Regulations governing what constitutes a minor in possession of alcohol are outlined in the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Code, Sec. 106.05. Although it does not specifically mention the concept of constructive possession, courts have held that possession laws can be extended to constructive possession as well.

Constructive possession, when concerning alcohol, is the situation when a person has does not have actual possession of the alcohol but is deemed to have control of the substance.

In United States v. Derose, the court found that possession can exist even if the minor had no actual physical contact with the alcohol. Some factors which determine constructive possession in Texas are outlined in the case Dixon v. State, and include whether the alcohol is in plain view or was conveniently accessible.

Being at a party where alcohol is present is enough to put a minor at risk for being arrested even if no alcohol was consumed. A minor can still be charged for possession because they could have had the alcohol.

Instead of being praised for not succumbing to peer pressure, they are cited for possession, a class C misdemeanor. Essentially, they are guilty for associating with people breaking the law.

Teenagers are expected to remove themselves from the situations where alcohol is available, but that is much easier said than done. No one wants to make a scene by leaving or sit home alone while everyone else is having fun.

Transportation may not even be readily available. Furthermore, if the alcohol is on a bus or in the homecoming limo, leaving may not be an option at all.

The social ramifications of attempting to leave or enlisting the help of an adult can be severe and should not be underestimated. The results could be social isolation at best or bullying at worst.

The constructive possession rule unfairly holds an individual responsible for the actions of others. It is easy for a minor to claim that he was only holding a beer for a friend, but police are equipped with breathalyzers that can verify the assertion.

In the past, teenagers have been reasonably expected to resist peer pressure in situations with alcohol. The burden has never been on them to predict which situations will involve alcohol and which ones won’t. Why are teenagers today subjected to a different and unreasonable standard?

Categories: Opinion

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