Drug Possession Charges: What Do You “Know?”
Recently, a post on this blog discussed the two different types of drug possession that could lead to criminal charges. “Actual possession” refers to drugs on an individual’s person, such as in a pocket or in a backpack that he or she is carrying at the time of the search or arrest. “Constructive possession,” by comparison, refers to illicit substances being found in a location that the suspect has control over, such as the interior of his or her car or residence. There are, however, two other elements that prosecutors must prove to secure a conviction in a drug possession case and they both revolve around the word “knowingly.”
Knowledge and the Law
According to the Illinois Controlled Substance Act, “it is unlawful for any person knowingly to possess a controlled or counterfeit substance or controlled substance analog,” unless expressly permitted to do so for the practice of medicine or other purposes addressed in the law. Other statutes that govern the possession marijuana (in amounts greater than 10 grams) and methamphetamines contain similar language. The word “knowingly” is an extremely large part of the equation, and it can be broken down into two important elements.
Knowing the Substance Is an Illegal Drug
If you are stopped by police and you are carrying cocaine or heroin, you are going to have a hard to time getting a judge or jury to believe that you did not know that a fine white powder in a tiny plastic bag was an illegal drug. But, what if you asked a friend for ibuprofen or something similar for a headache and he hands you several tablets that you barely glance at before putting them in your pocket? If you are stopped and the tablets turn out to be ecstasy or a prescription opioid, prosecutors may have a hard time showing you knew that they were illegal drugs—especially if you readily consented to being searched.
Knowing the Drugs Were Present
In reality, very few people will hold or take possession of an item—drugs, in particular—without knowing what it is. Thus, basing your defense on the idea that you did not know that what you were carrying was an illegal drug is possible but risky. It is more common for a person to unknowingly be in constructive possession of an illicit substance.
Consider a scenario in which you picked up your friend for a night out. He or she tosses a backpack in the backseat and you are on your way. When you drop your friend off at the end of the night, he grabs his backpack and a small bag of cocaine falls out onto the floor of your car. On the way home, you are pulled over for speeding and the officer sees the bag sitting on the floor and arrests you for possession because you are the only one in the vehicle. While the road ahead will not be an easy one, prosecutors still must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you knew the drugs were in your car.
Defending Against Drug Possession Charges
If you have been arrested on charges of drug possession but you did not about the presence or the character of the substance in question, you need the help of an experienced Will County criminal defense lawyer. Call 815-740-4025 for a free, confidential consultation with Attorney Jack L. Zaremba today. We will review your case and help you explore your available options.