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What Does it Mean to Possess Drugs?

How Possession is (or isn’t) Proven in Criminal Court

Possession of a controlled substance can either be a misdemeanor or a felony in Missouri. Its classification depends on the type of controlled substance and the amount (if marijuana). However, the most important element of this crime is possession. The prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant either knew about the drugs or that he exercised control over them. This can be shown as either actual or constructive possession.

Actual possession is when a person has the substance on his person or within easy reach and convenient control. If a person has the power and intention at a given time to exercise control over the substance, either directly or through another person, then that person has constructive possession. The most basic way to say this is that a person cannot control a substance if he or she is not conscious of its existence. Therefore, if there is not actual possession (i.e. in pocket), then constructive can be shown by other facts bringing about an inference of defendant’s knowledge of the controlled substance.

Drawing an Inference to Prove Constructive Possession

A primary fact to bring about an inference is control over a premises. If there is no sharing of the area, then an inference has been made. However, if there is a sharing of the premises, then further incriminating evidence is necessary to connect the defendant to the drugs. For example, in Missouri v. Clark, the court held that there was not enough to find constructive possession. Drugs were found pinned in a baggie to a picture board in a bedroom. Some of the defendant’s belongings were found in the bedroom along with the defendant. Further, there was a large sum of money found on his person. However, there were female belongings in the bedroom as well, the sum of money was in large bills not small (small bills typical for drug dealing), and the drugs were in solid colored baggies so you could not see what was in them. If there is not something that would infer knowledge and control over the drugs, then the element of possession cannot be proven.

If you have been charged with possession of a controlled substance, it is vital to contact a skilled criminal defense attorney who can evaluate the facts of your case. A successful defense could depend on the smallest piece of evidence alleged by the prosecution.