What is the Meaning of “Possession” in a Drug Possession Case?

June 7, 2021

Many people across the U.S. struggle with substance abuse disorders or casually abuse substances in social situations or for medicinal purposes. However, Virginia, like most states, considers possession of illegal drugs to be a very serious crime. If law enforcement catches you with controlled substances in your possession, you can be criminally charged with either a misdemeanor or felony depending upon the type of substance, which Schedule the substance is classified as being, and the amount of the substance in your possession. Schedule I and II substances are considered felonies while the simple possession of other substances are charged as misdemeanors.

What Possession Means

Possession of a controlled substance means that a person knowingly had drugs in their possession. While this may sound like a simplified case to prove, that is not always the situation. In order for the Commonwealth to establish a case for possession, the person must have had knowledge of the drug’s presence and was aware of the drug’s character. 

The most obvious type of possession charge is actual physical possession. However, possession cases that are established based upon circumstantial evidence are referred to as constructive possession cases. This is usually a situation where the contraband in question is within the person’s dominion and control or “wingspan.” A classic example of this is when someone is charged with possession of drugs when the drugs were located somewhere in their vehicle.

These cases can sometimes be more difficult for the prosecutor to prove as it would have to be established that the person was aware of both the character and presence of the substance and that the environment in which the substance was discovered was under the person’s control.

Defenses for Possession

If the person is caught with a controlled substance but is able to produce a prescription for that substance, a Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney could use this as a defense. A criminal defense attorney Fairfax VA might also claim that the person was unaware of the substance’s presence or did not know the nature of the substance. A criminal lawyer Fairfax VA could also argue that the environment was not completely under the person’s control. For instance, even if the person owned the house, they may not have full control over the bedroom belonging to relatives or roommates.

In cases of physical possession, the validity of the search could be challenged in court by a criminal defense attorney Fairfax VA. If law enforcement lacked probable cause to search the person or the premises, the case could potentially be dismissed on the basis of a Fourth Amendment right violation.

Penalties for Possession

Drug possession is a serious crime in Virginia. The penalty for being convicted of simple possession of a Schedule I or II substance is a jail sentence of up to 10 years and a fine up to $2,500. Schedule III substance possession is charged as a class 1 misdemeanor that carries a consequence of up to 12 months incarceration and a fine up to $2500, while Schedule IV substance possession is a class 2 misdemeanor and can result in up to 6 months in jail and a fine of up to $1000. Possession of Schedule V and VI substances can cost you fines of up to $250 and $500, respectively.

How a Lawyer Can Help

If you have been charged with drug possession, a Fairfax criminal attorney can review the evidence and establish a line of defense that could mean maintaining your freedom and saving thousands of dollars in fines.  If you’ve been charged with a crime, don’t attempt to tackle the legal process alone. Rudolphi Law is a respected Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney who can offer guidance to help you understand your case, evaluate your options, support you through the legal process, and strive to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Contact Rudolphi Law for a consultation today!