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Matthew A. Radefeld and Daniel A. Juengel

Whose drugs are they?

On Behalf of | Jun 24, 2019 | Drug Crimes |

When you face any kind of drug charges in Missouri, the first thing the prosecutor must prove in order to convict you is that the drugs the law enforcement officers recovered actually belonged to you and not someone else. FindLaw explains that (s)he can go one of two routes. She can prove that you actually possessed the drugs or (s)he can prove that you constructively possessed them.

If the officers found the drugs somewhere on your person, such as in one of your pockets, you make it easy for the prosecutor because you had actual possession of them. All (s)he needs is the credible testimony from the officer who recovered the drugs as to where they were found. Constructive possession, on the other hand, gives the prosecutor a considerably more difficult problem. Here the officers found the drugs somewhere else other than on your person, and the prosecutor must convince the jury through circumstantial evidence that they belonged to you.

Understanding constructive possession

Constructive possession is easier to understand by example. Suppose, for instance, that you and three passengers are riding in your car when an officer pulls you over for an alleged traffic violation. Suppose further that the officer asks you if (s)he can search your vehicle and you agree to the search, which, by the way, is something you should never do. But this time you do it and the officer finds illegal drugs hidden in a baggie underneath your driver’s seat.

Despite the fact that no question exists that you had illegal drugs in your car, the question becomes who possessed them? You or one of your passengers? After all, the four of you each had equal opportunity to place them where the officer found them. Under this fact situation, the circumstantial evidence cannot give the jury the certainty it needs to infer that the drugs belonged to you. Consequently, the prosecutor cannot meet his or her burden of proof and the jury must acquit you of all charges.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.