A Maryland man was recently the victim of an armed robbery in his home in College Park. Amongst the property the man reported stolen to the police was about $600 of rent money and the man’s stash of marijuana. Yes, you heard that correctly. The College Park man reported to police that the robbery suspects were armed with handguns and had demanded that the man turn over his money and his drugs. The robbery suspects reportedly assured the man that he would not be in any danger if he complied with the request to give up his money and his marijuana. A nice gesture by the armed home invasion robbers, but a gesture that will certainly not help the suspects in court if they are ever arrested. The Maryland man complied and handed over his rent money and an unknown quantity of marijuana, and then the robbery suspects left the house. Police also reported that the armed robbery suspects took laptops and cell phones from the house, but the Maryland man was not aware of this missing property at the time he initially reported the crime to police.
As unbelievable as it may seem, theft, burglary, and robbery victims often report to police that their drugs have been stolen. Drugs such as marijuana and cocaine are certainly properties hat have value to the owners, and the owners of these drugs feel wronged if they are stolen. On the other hand, calling the police to report stolen drugs will never benefit the owner of the drugs in his or her quest to get the drugs back. If police do happen to locate the stolen property, they will simply confiscate the drugs and place them in an evidence locker or destroy them. At least this is what police are supposed to do with the drugs they confiscate, but criminal lawyers tend to hear numerous stories about police keeping the drugs for themselves or even selling them back to the original owners. Reporting stolen illegal drugs such as marijuana, cocaine, and pills also creates numerous other legal questions, such as whether someone who reports stolen illegal drugs can be arrested for possession of drugs, or whether someone who steals illegal drugs can be arrested for theft of drugs.
Under Maryland law, a person cannot be arrested for possession of drugs by simply calling the police to report that his or her drugs have been stolen. The Maryland man who reported the robbery thus will not be prosecuted for possession of marijuana. Likewise, although police may have suspected the robbery victim was selling marijuana, he cannot be arrested for possession with intent to distribute marijuana. In order to be arrested or prosecuted for possession of marijuana, you must either be in actual or constructive possession of the drug. Actual possession typically means having the drugs on your person, such as in your hand or in your pocket. Constructive possession does not require the drugs to physically be on you, but rather in place where you have control and dominion. Constructive drug possession also requires knowledge of the drugs presence and awareness that it is an illegal substance. The Maryland robbery victim cannot be charged with either type of possession in this case because police never actually found any marijuana.
Another legal issue that the Maryland robbery victim’s story raises is whether the suspects can be arrested for stealing the marijuana. Robbery, and in this case armed home invasion robbery, is a crime against another person. It is irrelevant what was actually stolen. Even if the robbery suspects took only the marijuana, and not money or cell phones, they could be charged with robbery. Robbery is an intentional taking with force, and does not specify an actual value of the goods stolen. On the other hand, if the Maryland man had left the marijuana lying around in a public place, the taking of the drug would only be classified as a theft. Theft is a crime against property, and not against a person. If the Maryland man had called the police in reference to simple theft of the marijuana, they likely would not have responded to investigate, but legally speaking, a person can be arrested and charged with theft of an illegal drug.
Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland criminal lawyer specializing in drug possession, theft, and robbery cases in Baltimore and throughout Maryland. Contact the Maryland marijuana attorneys at The Herbst Firm for a free consultation.
Robbery victim: “He took my weed and took my rent money”, www.abc2news.com.