Possession of Drugs – Actual vs. Constructive in Virginia

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When a person is charged with the possession of drugs, it is not required that the person actually had the drugs on their person.  Typically, the Commonwealth can prove that someone is possessing drugs in two ways.

First, the state can show that someone had drugs that were actually in their possession.  This requires the police to show that the drugs were somewhere on the body or personal property of the person charged.  Typically, these would be drugs that were found in the pocket or purse of a person that was arrested.  When drugs are found in this manner, it is usually an easy case for the Commonwealth to prove.

The tougher case for the police, and the more common case, is when drugs are found around the person.  This would include cases where the police find drugs in someone’s house or their car.  This is referred to as constructive possession.  To prove constructive possession, the Commonwealth must show that the person could “exercise dominion and control” over the contraband, and that the person had “actual knowledge of the nature and character of the substance.”  In plain language, the person must have been able to access the drugs, knew they were there, and what they were.  The ownership or occupancy of premises or property where the drugs are found is not enough, by itself, to prove possession.  Generally, the Commonwealth will prove constructive possession by the statements of the person.

If you are approached about having drugs by the police, it is important to remember your fifth amendment right to remain silent.  Be polite with the police, but you are not required to answer any questions.  If you have found yourself charged with possession of drugs, call the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Winslow and McCurry for aggressive and competent representation at (804) 423.1382.