New York prosecutors developing a drug case against an individual have to meet certain standards. To accuse someone of drug possession, for example, they must show beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual owned, consumed or had control over prohibited or controlled substances.
However, police officers don’t always find drugs directly in someone’s possession. Instead, they may find controlled substances in a vehicle or on a property. The people present may all deny having knowledge of or control over those drugs. Regardless, prosecutors may file charges against someone subject to a search by claiming that they had constructive possession of drugs found at the scene.
What is constructive possession?
According to both state law and prior court rulings in New York, constructive possession occurs in very specific scenarios. Someone typically needs to have direct control over the drugs that police officers found for the state to prosecute them for a drug offense based on constructive possession.
Constructive possession claims arise when police officers find drugs near someone or in a location under their control but not on their person. Typically, the state must establish that the individual could exercise control over the area where officers found the drugs and could therefore use or dispose of the drugs found during a search.
Those accused of drug offenses, especially felony drug crimes, may want to challenge claims of constructive possession as part of their overall defense strategy. Learning about the nuances in New York’s drug laws may benefit those facing criminal charges. Seeking legal guidance is a good way to get started.