Drug possession charges can lead to many years in prison if a person is convicted under New York’s drug laws. While this result may seem clear cut when the charged person is arrested in actual possession of the drugs, it may be more confusing to hear of a person’s conviction when the person does not have the drugs in hand at the time of arrest. However, through constructive possession, the government can prosecute and secure a conviction for drug possession for a person who is not in physical possession of the drugs at the time of the arrest.
Under the law, possession can be found in two circumstances. In the first, a person is said to be in possession of something if he or she is actually holding it or it is in his or her physical possession. Under the second legal definition, a person is said to be in possession of an object if he or she exercises dominion or control over the area in which the object is found, even if the object is not in his or her physical control. This second definition is known as constructive possession. Constructive possession can also be found if the charged person had dominion and control over another person in actual physical possession of the drugs and could have ordered the person to destroy them.
Constructive possession can be charged when the police arrest one person for possession of drugs found in a house occupied by multiple people. The person arrested does not have to own the home in order to be considered to have dominion and control over an area in which drugs are found. Someone who stays several days a week in a bedroom in a house owned by another person, leaves clothing and other belongings there, or even receives mail at the house, can be said to in control of that bedroom. If drugs are found in the bedroom, the occasional occupier, and not the homeowner, can be charged with drug possession under a constructive possession theory. This is true even if other people had access to the room in which the drugs are found.
There are defenses to a constructive possession charge, for example, if the area in which the drugs were found can be determined to be a common area over which several people exercised equal domain and control. Remember, close proximity to the drugs alone is not enough to prove constructive possession. Additionally, the prosecution has to prove that the charged person knew of the presence of the drugs. This can be easy if the drugs are found in plain sight by the arresting officers, however, if the drugs are hidden, especially in a place that others had access to, this may be more difficult for the prosecution to prove.
Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are a facing New York State drug possession, manufacturing, or trafficking charges, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney representing you. Contact experienced Syracuse criminal defense attorney George F. Hildebrandt for a consultation today.