If the police find you with illegally obtained prescription drugs or illicit substances, then you could face drug charges. This may have happened after a drug dog was curious about your backpack or after the police lawfully searched your house, apartment or car and found drugs hidden somewhere.
But what if the drugs really aren’t yours? What if they belong to the co-worker you gave a lift to the other day or the buddy with whom you share an apartment? In those cases, you can still face charges for “constructive” possession.
Understanding actual and constructive possession
A drug that’s found directly on a person would very likely lead to an actual possession charge. The consequences of an actual drug possession charge in Maryland are punishable by up to four years and lead to thousands of dollars in fines. The volume and schedule of a drug and the intent to distribute may dramatically alter the penalties of a drug possession charge.
If a drug or illicit substance isn’t found directly on a person, but the person could have access to the drug or substance, then this could lead to a constructive possession charge. Constructive possession may also require that the person knew they could access the drugs.
A constructive possession drug charge can be a bit harder to understand. You could consider the following example as a way to understand the difference between actual and constructive possession.
If you know someone and they’re caught dealing drugs then they would likely face an actual drug possession charge. You knowing them wouldn’t likely lead to any charges toward you. But, if you share an apartment with someone who deals drugs, and you have knowledge of where they stash their drugs, and the ability to control those drugs (access), then you may be charged with constructive possession. This often happens when the “stash” is found in a common area of a shared apartment, like a bathroom or kitchen.
It’s often important to understand your legal rights if you fear you’ll be charged with a drug possession charge.