The police pull you over. After searching your car, they find a small bag of illegal drugs in your backseat. You find yourself placed under arrest for drug possession.

But what happens if the drugs weren’t yours? Maybe they fell out of a passenger’s pocket. Perhaps you weren’t even aware that they were there. Even if this happens to be the case, you can still face drug charges under a legal theory known as constructive possession.

It comes down to control

Constructive possession charges turn on the issue of control. In other words, you may be considered to be in actual control of an illegal substance, even if you didn’t have physical control of the substance. There are two main elements to a constructive possession charge:

  • You knew that drugs were on or near your property: You don’t need to have direct knowledge of the drugs. As long as a reasonable person could’ve inferred that drugs may have been present, it’s enough to prove this element. For example, if your friends were doing drugs in the back of your car last week, you are probably aware that drugs may be in your vehicle.
  • You knew the drugs were illegal: The second element of a constructive possession charge is that a reasonable person knew or should’ve known that the drugs were illegal.

Continuing with our car example, if you are the only occupant of the car when the drugs are found, the state will likely have a strong case for a constructive possession charge. If you had passengers with you, things become murkier. Either way, building a strong criminal defense is essential to protecting yourself from serious consequences. You should discuss your options with a skilled legal professional.