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What is constructive possession?

Are you being charged with possession of an illegal drug, even though you did not have it on your person? If so, the authorities may have referred to something called "constructive possession." It's very important to know what this is and how it works.

Typically, the authorities have to be able to prove a few different things for anyone to be convicted of possession of a drug or a controlled substance.

First, they must show the actual possession, proving that the person had the drug with him or her. Next, they have to show that the person knew the drug was there—if someone else put the drugs into your coat pocket without telling you, for example, you may not have ever meant to break the law. Finally, they have to prove that a person had the knowledge that the drug was, in fact, illegal.

Constructive possession gets around some of this by allowing you to be charged if you had the ability to access an illegal drug, even if you did not have it yourself. The idea here is that you can still be linked to that drug by some other means. This is sometimes used to charge multiple people with possession of the same drug.

For example, if you lived in a home with two roommates and the three of you all had keys to the house, the police may try to use constructive possession if illegal drugs were found in the home. This doesn't mean you'll always be charged—you may not have known that your roommate had drugs in the house, for example—but this is simply an example of how these charges can come about in Illinois. Be sure you know your rights if facing such charges.

Source: FIndLaw, "Drug Possession Overview," accessed Feb. 11, 2016

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