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Distinctions between actual and constructive drug possession

On Behalf of | Jun 30, 2020 | Drug Crimes

Drug possession is a serious criminal offense in the Commonwealth of Virginia. A number of factors can influence the possible sanctions that a person can face for their alleged drug crime, including but not limited to the type of drug allegedly involved and the individual’s prior criminal history. When a Virginia resident is facing allegations of illegal drug possession, they can benefit from seeking the help of a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney early on in their case. While this post is offered as an informational overview on an important drug crime topic, all readers are reminded that it contains no legal advice.

Drug possession charges must be proven in court for convictions to attach, and at their most basic level, the elements that prosecutors must prove include possession of the drugs by the defendant and knowledge of the drugs by the defendant. Put another way, a prosecutor must show that a person physically had some control over the drugs alleged to be in their possession, and the person knew that the drugs were within their control.

The lines of possession can blur when prosecutors claim that defendants possessed illegal drugs, but those drugs were not actually found on their persons. When drugs are in a person’s pockets, or in their backpack or purse, it may be claimed that they have actual possession of the drugs as they have physical dominion over them. However, when a person lives in a house with a roommate, and that roommate keeps illegal drugs in their room, it may be more difficult to claim that the person has actual possession of the illegal substances.

The above scenario is an example of what may be claimed to be constructive possession. Constructive possession involves the ability of a defendant to access the allegedly illegal substances without having them physically on their body or under their power. As readers may be able to see, constructive possession can become a difficult allegation to defend when prosecutors allege that by virtue of having access to a place where drugs were kept, a person has possession of them.

Constructive and actual possession relate to the degree of physical control that a person has over an allegedly illegal drug. Readers should remember, though, that prosecutors also must prove that defendants know about their possession of those drugs in order for drug possession charges to stand. If a person can access a place where illegal drugs are kept but has know knowledge of the fact, they may not be guilty of possessing drugs as the knowledge component of proof is not met.

Drug possession allegations can become complicated by many factors when shared spaces, borrowed vehicles, and other specific scenarios unfold. Prosecutors must be held accountable for fulfilling their duties to prove all elements of the cases they pursue, and criminal defendants may present evidence that contradicts those elements. When facing a drug possession charge, the support and knowledge of a Virginia-based criminal defense attorney can help an individual understand their legal options and prepare a defense strategy for their individual case.

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