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Can you be charged for drugs that are not yours?

On Behalf of | Nov 9, 2023 | Firm News

Possession of illegal substances does not always require being caught red-handed with cocaine, marijuana or other drugs. You can still face charges for illicit drugs that are not on you or within reach. This is a legal concept known as constructive possession of narcotics, and it can result in harsh consequences such as jail time. Although such a situation appears grim, it is still possible to challenge such allegations.

Defining constructive possession

There are two types of drug possession: active and constructive. Active possession is what people commonly think of when it comes to drug charges. It happens when authorities discover narcotics on a person that no one else has access to, such as in their hands or the bag they are carrying.

Constructive possession, in contrast, happens when cops find drugs in the vicinity of a person who has the ability to control them. Contrary to active possession, it can occur even if the drugs are not physically on a person and are within the reach of others.

A few examples are:

  • Drugs that are on the table of a party you are attending
  • Drugs that your roommate owns but are aware of
  • Drugs that are in the glove box of a car that multiple people use

However, merely being in the presence of narcotics does not establish constructive possession. There are elements that must be present to convict you.

The elements of constructive possession

Before the state can convict a person for constructive possession of drugs, there are two key elements that the prosecutor must demonstrate:

  • The accused had actual knowledge of the presence of illicit drugs.
  • The accused had dominion and control over the unlawful substances.

Establishing actual knowledge may necessitate proof demonstrating that you were aware that there were drugs and that they were illegal. Certain factors linking you to narcotics may cause you to appear guilty. This includes owning the property where police found the illicit drugs or getting caught when the illegal substances were in plain sight.

Why consulting a legal professional may be necessary

Constructive possession cases are tricky. The accused may be treated the same as those charged with active possession if convicted. Considering the consequences, it may be wise to seek the advice of a lawyer if you find yourself in such a situation.