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What is the “constructive possession” of drugs?

On Behalf of | Aug 9, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

The term “constructive possession” gets thrown around a lot in drug cases, and a lot of people don’t really understand what it means – or why they’re being charged with a drug crime when the drugs weren’t actually found on them.

Understanding more about what constructive possession means, along with all its implications, can help you better participate in your own defense. Here’s what you should know:

Constructive possession is a legal doctrine

Basically, the law permits prosecutors to show that someone owns or controls an item even if they don’t have actual physical possession of that item when the police come calling. To establish constructive possession of drugs, prosecutors typically have to show:

  • Knowledge: Mere proximity to the drugs isn’t sufficient for a charge. There must be, at the very least, circumstantial evidence that you knew the drugs were there and that they were controlled substances.
  • Control: Prosecutors also need to show that you had some sort of authority over the drugs (or, at least, the intention to control them).

In practice, constructive possession charges often happen when drugs are found in:

  • Shared living spaces: If illegal drugs are found in a common area of a shared dwelling, constructive possession might be alleged against everybody who lives there.
  • Vehicles: If drugs are found in a vehicle that is registered to you, you could be charged even if a passenger actually dropped them between the seats.
  • Luggage or containers: If illegal drugs are discovered in a bag or container you own, the prosecutor will likely have a hard time believing that they aren’t yours – even if you left the bag unattended for a while.
  • Mail or packages: If drugs are mailed to your address, you can largely expect the prosecutor to allege that you were expecting them.

If you find yourself in a situation involving the constructive possession of drugs, do not try to talk your way out of the charges. Anything you say could end up making your situation worse. Experienced legal guidance can help you understand your rights and build a strong defense.