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The crucial difference between actual and constructive possession

On Behalf of | Aug 8, 2022 | Drug Charges

When you think of an individual charged with drug possession, you probably picture an individual who had prohibited substances or prescriptions that didn’t belong to them in their pocket or their backpack. However, Maryland has a secondary definition of possession that might increase your risk of drug charges.

When police officers find illegal or controlled substances directly on someone’s person, they can charge someone with actual possession. However, police officers can also bring serious drug charges based on allegations of constructive possession.

You need to understand what constructive possession is to respond to pending criminal charges or to protect yourself during your next interaction with law enforcement.

Constructive possession is about control and proximity

Police officers frequently find drugs in buildings or vehicles that are not physically in the possession of one person. The police officers then need to determine who those drugs belong to so that they can pursue charges.

Frequently, it will be the owner of the property or the vehicle. Law enforcement will assume that the owner had constructive possession. Essentially, the state claims that someone must have known about the presence of the prohibited drugs and had control over them because they owned the vehicle or property where the police found those drugs.

How does constructive possession affect your situation?

When you understand that the police want to charge you with a crime based on constructive possession claims, that can play a major role in your defense strategy. For example, you could highlight the lack of forensic evidence tying you to the drugs. If the police don’t find your fingerprints or genetic materials on the packaging, you can reasonably claim that you weren’t the one that put it there.

The placement of the items in question and even their condition might give you plausible deniability. If you had never accessed the compartment where the police found the drugs before, you could potentially claim that someone else put them there. The more frequently you have other people in your vehicle, the more potential there is for someone else to have left that there.

Understanding the rules that apply to Maryland drug charges can help you prepare for your defense.