Most people are surprised to know that under Pennsylvania Law a person can be charged and convicted of possessing a controlled substance even when he or she are NOT actually in possession of the controlled substance. Recently, a client came into our office and was perplexed at how the police could charge him with possessing a controlled substance when he had unsuspectingly given a ride to friend who possessed a bundle of heroin and when police made a traffic stop of his vehicle the friend tried to discard the heroin near the console of the vehicle. During this consultation, we had to explain the doctrine of constructive possession to our client, and explain to him that he could be charged with possession of the controlled substance under the doctrine of constructive possession.
In Pennsylvania, there are two ways a person can possess a controlled substance. The first way a person can possess a controlled substance is quite obvious-that is, he or sheis holding or otherwise carrying the drugs on his/her person.
The second way that a person can be deemed to possess a controlled substance; however, can be quite a confusing concept for many to grasp-that is constructive possession. Under the doctrine of constructive possession, a person can be found to be in possession of a controlled substance when he or she is not carrying, holding or touching the controlled substance.
For a person to be found to be in constructive possession of a controlled substance, it must be proven that he had both the intent to control and power to control the substance. Its worth noting that two or more person may jointly possess a controlled substance, provided each have the intent to exercise control over the substance and each have the power to control the substance. Each of the joint possessors is regarded as having possession of the substance for purposes of criminal law.
Typically, the Commonwealth will seek to prove that a defendant had the power to control a controlled substance by attempting to show that existence of the substance was known to the defendant because it was out in the open and, that the controlled substance was in close enough proximity to the defendant for him/her to hold, carry or touch it. Proving the Defendant’s intent to possess the controlled substance can be proven by several ways: (1) through direct evidence in the form of a confession from the defendant that he intended to possess the drugs, (2) testimony from a codefendant or a third party that Defendant planned on delivering the drugs to another person, (3) the existence of a digital scale or drug paraphernalia, or (4) circumstantial evidence such a large quantity of money on the defendant.
If you or a loved one are charged with a drug offense, you need to speak to a knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense attorney. Call (717) 737-3300 for a consultation.
The Law Offfice of Roy Galloway, LLC
4309 Linglestown Rd., Suite 107
Harrisburg, PA 17112