When police officers allege that someone violated Indiana drug law, possession charges often follow. Drug possession may be the least severe drug charge possible, but it can still lead to felony charges in some cases.
Police officers will typically arrest anyone that they find in direct possession of contraband. Sometimes, people end up accused of drug offenses not because they had direct possession of drugs but instead because they were in the wrong place at the wrong time or allowed the wrong people access to their homes or vehicles.
Some people accused of drug offenses in Indiana face charges based on constructive possession. What does that term mean for the purpose of criminal proceedings?
Prior court rulings have established crucial rules
The Indiana courts have frequently heard cases involving allegations of drug possession where the defendants did not physically possess the drugs. Someone carrying a bag full of drugs or with controlled substances in their pockets would face accusations of actual drug possession.
Other people get caught in close proximity to drugs and face accusations of constructive possession. The rules related to constructive possession largely draw on prior court rulings. Claims of constructive possession effectively allege that an individual had access to and control over the contraband that police officers found.
Typically, people face claims of constructive possession over their relationship to a vehicle or a home. Someone who drives or owns a vehicle that police find drugs in could face claims of constructive possession. So could a homeowner or tenant living at a property where the police find drugs.
To convict someone based on allegations of constructive possession, prosecutors would typically need to demonstrate that the person accused was aware of the drugs and had control over them. Evidence including forensic details could help raise questions about a claim of constructive possession.
Defendants might also use the ownership history for a vehicle or the rental history for the home where they live as part of a defense strategy when responding to allegations of constructive possession. They may be able to connect what police found to a prior owner or tenant. At the very least, they can raise questions about the likelihood that they were the party to obtain and control those substances.
The details of the state’s case will often have a profound impact on the best defense strategy available to someone who has been accused of a drug violation. Understanding the difference between actual and constructive possession might benefit someone confused about allegations that they broke Indiana drug laws to craft a more effective defense strategy with the assistance of an experienced attorney.