Legal Updates

Proving “Possession” For Legal Purposes

Possession of a Controlled Substance, and Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver are common charges in Pennsylvania.  Both crimes require the State prove defendant possessed a controlled substance.  ”Possession” is a legal term of art defined by Pennsylvania case law.

For a person to “possess” a controlled substance three things are necessary:

1.) The item must be a controlled substance (in drug cases).

2.) The individual must be aware of the presence and the nature of the substance (in other words, he or she must know where and what the substance is); and 

3.) The individual must have the intent to control and the power to control the substance.

Note: In Possession With Intent to Manufacture or Deliver cases, the State must also show defendant possessed the item with the specific intent or goal of delivering the item to another, or using the item in the manufacture of controlled substances.

In other words, a person does not possess drugs (or other contraband) merely because he or she is aware of their presence, but has no intention to exercise control over it.  

Obviously, ordinary usage is possession.  But in many instances, defendant is charged where the drugs/contraband is not found on their person.  Where this is the case, the State has the burden to prove the aforementioned elements.

Another interesting nuance of “possession” terminology is that two or more persons may have joint possession of a controlled substance.  The State must prove both have the intent to exercise joint control over the substance.

The elements of constructive possession must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.  Contact a Philadelphia Criminal Defense lawyer to discuss the “possession” elements further, and prepare your defense.

Call now: 267-535-9776

Source: Pennsylvania Jury Instructions.