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When Can You Be Held Accountable for Drugs That Didn’t Belong to You?

— April 1, 2021

Simply having control over drugs will get you in just as much trouble as having them in your pockets.

The prospect of facing drug charges causes a great deal of stress. It can be intimidating as a first-time offender with no prior experience with the criminal justice system. Being charged with constructive possession of drugs can compound the problem. 

What does Constructive Possession entail?

Many individuals charged with possession of a controlled substance are charged solely because they were in the drugs’ vicinity. This happens a lot in the context of vehicles. For instance, they were just a passenger in a car with drugs in the center console. This is known legally as constructive possession, and it allows a police officer to charge someone for drug possession even though the drugs were not physically in their possession.

How can you be charged with drug possession if you don’t have any drugs?

The answer is constructive possession. This is a state in which you were not in possession of drugs but were aware of their presence and had control over them.

Even if you only have constructive possession of a drug, you can be charged with drug possession. The particular charges you might face will depend on the type of drug you were in possession of.

What does “possession” mean?

Criminal possession necessitates “intentional control and dominion.” It is also critical that the defendant be physically capable of attending to the item over time. The state should also show that you had a general understanding of the substance or item in question. Such possession can be actual or constructive. It is not necessary to have physical or manual control over the illegal object.

Instances of Constructive Possession That May Result in Arrest

A person may be apprehended for constructive possession in a lot of situations. Below are some hypothetical scenarios that might necessitate the services of a defense lawyer:

  • You own a car and occasionally let a friend drive it. One day they arrest him on suspicion of marijuana possession. You highly doubt that your friend uses your car to buy marijuana on a regular basis. He is pulled over for failing to stop at a red light, and the officer discovers marijuana in your trunk. You assume your friend forgot the marijuana in the trunk. Although you did not put the marijuana in the trunk, you may be indicted with constructive possession of marijuana since you own the car.
  • Jennifer owns the property and rents a room to Sarah, who hosts parties and talks about using methamphetamine. Sarah tells Jennifer that she stores drugs in their shared bathroom. “I should flush those down the toilet because it’s my property,” Jennifer considers, but she forgets. Police officers obtain a search warrant for Sarah’s property, even though Jennifer owns it. When the police inspect the property, they discover the drugs in the bathroom. Since Jennifer owns the property and was aware of Sarah’s drug use, Jennifer could face constructive possession charges.


Possessing drugs is never a great idea, but it is important to understand that simply having control over drugs will get you in just as much trouble as having them in your pockets.

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