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Actual Versus Constructive Possession of Drugs in DC

Actual possession simply means that a person is in possession of the drugs if he or she is holding drugs or carrying the drugs on his or her person. Constructive possession of drugs, on the other hand, is where a person exerts control over the drugs or has the power to exert control over the drugs even if they are not immediately on the person.

For example, if drugs were located in a person’s house or car the government may claim that they exercised constructive possession. However in order to do this the government must still prove that the person knew where the drugs were located and had the ability to exercise control over the drugs and also had the intention to exercise control over the drugs. With these requirements in mind, a DC drug lawyer can assist in building a defense and demonstrating why these requirements were not met.

Prosecutorial Proof

In order to prove constructive possession the prosecution would have to show that the defendant knew where the drugs were and also had the ability to exercise control over the drugs. A person will be considered to have exercised control over property if that person has both the power and the intent at a given time to control the property.

For example, if a person is in their living room watching television and drugs are located on their coffee table because they plan to consume the drugs, that person would be in constructive possession of the drugs, even though the drugs were not physically on his/her person. Given that the drugs were on the individual’s coffee table and they had the ability, or power, to control the drugs and also had the intent to control the drugs since they were close by and were going to consume them later on.

Prosecution always has to prove knowledge of where the drugs were located. Therefore, it is a common defense to a drug charge when a defendant is not aware of the presence of drugs.

Exclusive Occupancy

Exclusive occupancy simply means that there is only one occupant within a home or car.

When a person is in exclusive possession or in exclusive occupancy of his or her home, then there is a strong inference that he or she has constructive possession over certain items in the home. However, that inference does not exist where a home is occupied by more than one person which can be referred to as non-exclusive occupancy.

Scenarios Where Issues Arise

Actual versus constructive possession issues typically arise in situations where there are lots of people present. Unless someone is found to be in actual possession of drugs, the government will most likely try to prove that that person was in constructive possession and that may become difficult if there are large groups involved such social gatherings or parties.

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