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How Courts Establish Possession Beyond Your Pockets

You are in your first semester at college, meeting lots of interesting people and exploring the campus. Students and faculty alike welcome you to check out campus clubs, Greek organizations and intramural sports. You will meet many new people and experience a wealth of new situations.

So, when campus police find a bag of pot in your dorm room, you may not know how to explain it in court. Without a solid defense, a Virginia court can charge you with possession, even though the contraband was not on your person and you did not know it was there.

What is constructive possession?

Constructive possession helps courts charge people with possession without the contraband being on their person. Though difficult to prove at times, these charges are just as good as standard possession charges. In the case above, the courts would charge you with constructive possession. Even though the illegal substance was not on your person, you have a key to your dorm room. Possessing that key gives you effective control over that substance, establishing constructive possession. The courts might even charge your roommate, too.

Courts often use constructive possession to prosecute multiple people working to distribute contraband, including drugs, weapons and other illegal substances. For example, if law enforcement locates a storage locker full of illegal drugs, courts may charge every person with a key to that locker for constructive possession.

A slight shift in the burden of proof

Constructive possession does come with one catch — the prosecution must prove you knew the illegal substance was present. In the above case, maybe one of your new friends may have stashed the contraband in your dorm room for safekeeping. Constructive possession might help your defense if your attorney can prove who put the item there. The courts could charge that person with possession since their knowledge puts them in effective control of the contraband.

Facing possession charges? A lawyer can help

If you are facing constructive possession charges, you can ask a local attorney for counsel. A lawyer familiar with Virginia criminal defense will leverage their knowledge on all the latest developments in possession case law to build a defense that protects your rights.

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