Physical drug possession vs. constructive drug possession

If North Carolina police take you into custody, it could take days, weeks or longer to process your case. Any number of issues can have an impact on the ultimate outcome, including whether you’re facing drug possession charges or charges related to another type of crime.  

Regarding illegal drug possession, the exact type of possession of which you’re facing accusations is relevant, as well, such as physical or constructive possession. Understanding the difference between these two terms can be helpful in building a strong defense. Your knowledge of such terms can also help you determine whether any errors occurred in the process of your arrest.  

Physical possession means that police claim to have found drugs on your person 

Police use the phrase “physical possession of drugs,” when claiming to have discovered what they believe to be an illegal substance on your person, such as finding a bottle of pills in your pocket or marijuana in a backpack you were wearing at the time. Constructive possession, on the other hand, means that police are saying you had control over a substance that you were not holding or carrying at the time.  

An example of this might be police saying that they found illegal drugs in the trunk of a car registered in your name. You weren’t holding the substance at the time. In fact, you might not even have been in or near the car. However, the claim is that, because you own the car, you have control over its contents.  

Constructive possession charges are difficult to prove in court 

There is no way to predict the outcome of a specific case with 100% certainty. You’re guaranteed an opportunity to refute the charges against you. Constructive possession charges are typically more challenging to prove than physical possession, for numerous reasons.  

Police must send any substances they seize to a laboratory to confirm that they are, in fact, illegal drugs. A prosecutor must then convince a judge or jury that you knew the alleged drugs were present in the location stated. The prosecutor must also prove that you intended to control or distribute the items in question.  

Being proactive in your own defense may help mitigate your circumstances 

If North Carolina police arrest you and you wind up facing drug charges, it’s best to learn as much as you can ahead of time about the specific charges you’re facing, as well as a general overview of how the criminal justice system works. 

If you head to court with little to no knowledge of these issues, you may be unsure of how to plead or what options may be available, such as grounds for requesting a case dismissal. On the other hand, if you know where to seek criminal law support, you can begin building a strong defense as soon as you are in custody.

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