a man in handcufs with drugs on the table

If you or a family member have been accused of drug possession, it is crucial to seek the assistance of a drug possession defense attorney. At CMLaw, our Criminal Defense Attorneys have a deep understanding of the intricacies of possession charges in North Carolina. We thoroughly examine your case to determine if there are opportunities to challenge the prosecutor's case, forcing them to prove all aspects of possession beyond a reasonable doubt. If convicted of drug possession, the consequences may include imprisonment, substantial fines, probation, and a permanent criminal record. Let us provide the legal guidance and support you need during this challenging time.

Actual Possession

When you hear the term "possession," you likely think of what the law defines as actual possession. In drug-related cases, actual possession entails the following criteria:

  • The drugs were discovered on your person.
  • No one else had equal access to the drugs found.
  • You had the intent to possess the specific type of drug you are accused of possessing.

Actual possession is generally straightforward, requiring that the drugs or other contraband were found on your person without anyone else having access to them. We acknowledge that there may be circumstances where the situation is not so clear-cut. For example, you may not have been aware that someone had slipped drugs into your coat pocket or purse. We are not hesitant to challenge allegations of actual possession in court.

Constructive Possession

More often than not, possession debates are about whether you had constructive possession of drugs.

In drug cases, constructive possession means:

  • The drugs were not found on your person, but were found in your vicinity with you having the ability to access the drugs for the purpose of disposing of or using them, OR
  • The drugs were found in a location where multiple people had knowledge of and access to the drugs (ex. In a car with multiple passengers)

You can have constructive possession of drugs alone or with others. Prosecutors don’t have to prove exclusive possession to win a conviction under the theory of constructive possession.

Prosecutors often try to prove you had constructive possession if the drugs were in your house, apartment, or vehicle. While the theory of constructive possession is useful when multiple people are charged, the argument is strongest if you’re the sole occupant of the home or user of the vehicle.

It might seem like the prosecutor has an easy job proving constructive possession and this becomes even more true if you don’t aggressively defend yourself when facing drug charges. Drugs in your vicinity aren’t necessarily yours, and we’ll pose that issue to the judge or jury. We’ll force the prosecutor to build a stronger link between you and the drugs, and when they can’t, this raises reasonable doubt.

Understanding Possession During a Traffic Stop

Let's look at actual possession versus constructive possession with an example. Imagine you're riding in the front seat of your friend's car when a police officer pulls them over and arrests them for driving under the influence. The officer then searches your friend and their vehicle for alcohol or drugs related to the offense.

If the officer discovers a small bag of drugs in the center console without anyone claiming ownership, both you and your friend can be arrested for drug possession based on constructive possession. As a drug possession defense attorney, we would argue that you had no knowledge or control over the drugs and were unaware of the driver's actions.

Now, let's consider a different scenario where you are the driver and the officer finds drugs in your pocket. In this case, the prosecutor would argue that you had actual possession of the drugs.

The situation becomes more complex when you are the driver and drugs are found in the armrest or glove box of your car. The prosecutor can establish a stronger connection between you and the drugs, especially if you are the sole user of the vehicle. However, it is still possible to challenge the claim of constructive possession if you share the car or frequently give rides to friends who may have placed the drugs without your knowledge or consent.

When handling drug possession cases arising from traffic stops, we consider various factors, including but not limited to:

  • Car ownership
  • Frequent driver of the car
  • Recent passengers in the car
  • Access to the car when you are not present
  • Number of people in the car
  • Location of drug discovery
  • Legality of the search and seizure leading to drug discovery.

Defend Against Actual or Constructive Possession

If you're facing allegations of actual or constructive possession, it's crucial to have the support of a skilled drug crime defense attorney. Trying to handle this on your own is not advisable. Reach out to our team at CMLaw to discuss your situation and determine the most effective approach to prove the drugs were not yours.

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