Pennsylvania recognizes two types of drug possession: actual and constructive. Actual possession is when a person has physical control of an illegal substance. Constructive possession is when a person is not in physical custody of the drug, but they are near it, know it is illegal, and have the potential to take possession of it.
Generally, constructive possession occurs when law enforcement officials find drugs during a search of a home or car that multiple people are in. Regardless of whether or not the individuals had actual control of the illegal substance, anybody in the searched area could be charged with constructive possession.
For example, Doug, Hannah, and Lisa are having dinner at Doug’s house when the police arrive with a warrant to search the premises. During the search, the officers find drugs in Doug’s kitchen cabinet. Lisa and Hannah might not have physically held the drugs or even known they were there, but they could still be arrested and charged.
The Burden of Proof Rests on the Prosecutor
If Hannah and Lisa’s cases are taken to trial, the prosecutor must demonstrate that the two women knew the drugs were in Doug’s home, they were in proximity of it, and they intended to take control of it. This requires the prosecution to provide various types of evidence, such as fingerprints or statements made by the defendants, to land a conviction. Often, constructive possession offenses are more difficult to prove than actual possession because of the burdens the prosecutor must meet.
Potential Penalties for a Conviction
Although constructive possession charges may present more of a challenge for the prosecutor, it does not mean this offense should be taken lightly: Penalties for a conviction are the same as those for actual possession. The punishments for possession vary depending on the type and amount of drug, but the consequences are harsh and include jail or prison time and steep fines.
Call the Law Offices of William D. Thompson for a Free Consultation
If you were charged with drug possession – either actual or constructive – it is imperative to contact a skilled attorney as soon as possible. At the Law Offices of William D. Thompson, we are committed to protecting the freedoms of individuals accused of criminal offenses. Our lawyer will provide personalized attention to develop a strong legal strategy to defend your rights.