Actual possession occurs when someone is caught with illegal substances on their person, such as in a hand or a pocket. Possession of any form of an illegal substance can lead to serious criminal charges. These charges may include thousands of dollars and fees and several years of incarceration depending on how a court handles a criminal case.

However, someone may be charged with a criminal charge because they had access to drugs in some way, but the drugs weren’t found on their person – this is called constructive possession. While only one person may be charged for actual possession when drugs are found on them, several people may be charged for constructive possession.

Here’s what you should know:

3 examples of constructive possession

For a constructive possession charge to happen, the state has to know three things: the defendant has to know about the drugs; the defendant has to know the drugs were illicit; the defendant has to have some kind of control over the drugs. Deciding how a defendant would have control over illicit drugs can be difficult.

Here are a few scenarios that might lead to a constructive possession charge:

  • After an investigation, law enforcement found illicit drugs in several places in a shared apartment. The defendant knew their roommates were using or selling drugs and hid them in the living room, kitchen or bathroom – where they were inevitably found. The defendant may then be charged with constructive possession for knowing about the illicit drugs and sharing the space.
  • The defendant was pulled over while driving a shared car. After a legal search, police found illicit drugs in the glove box. The defendant knew the drugs were there and stashed them there by the other person who used the car, possibly leading to a constructive possession charge to the defendant because they had control over the vehicle.
  • The defendant may share a gym locker with a known drug abuser. Illicit drugs were found in the locker and because the defendant had a key, they were assumed to have control over the drugs – leading to a constructive possession charge.

If you’re being charged with constructive possession, then you may need to know your legal rights when creating a strong defense.