constructive possession | Definition

Doc's CJ Glossary by Adam J. McKee
Course: Introduction / Criminal Law

Constructive possession is the legal doctrine of a person being in possession of an object even when they were not in actual physical control of the object at the time.

Constructive possession is a legal concept that is frequently used in criminal law cases. It refers to situations where a person is considered to have possession of an object or item, even if they are not physically holding it at the time. This doctrine is often used in cases where drugs, weapons, or other contraband are found in a location that is accessible to multiple people.

Under the law, constructive possession requires both knowledge and control. To be found guilty of constructive possession, a person must have knowledge of the object’s presence and the ability to control it. For example, if drugs are found in a car that is registered to a person, that person may be charged with constructive possession if they knew the drugs were there and had the ability to access them.

Constructive possession can be a complex issue in criminal cases because it involves determining whether or not a person had knowledge of an object’s presence and whether or not they had the ability to control it. Courts will often look at various factors to determine whether or not constructive possession can be established. Some of the factors that may be considered include:

      • Whether the object was found in a location that was under the defendant’s control, such as a car, house, or office
      • Whether the defendant had access to the location where the object was found
      • Whether the defendant had any connection to the object, such as ownership or previous use
      • Whether the defendant made any statements or took any actions that suggest knowledge or control of the object

In some cases, constructive possession can be difficult to prove, especially if there are multiple people who had access to the location where the object was found. However, if there is strong evidence suggesting that a person had knowledge and control of the object, they may still be charged and convicted of constructive possession.

It is important to note that such possession is not limited to physical objects. The doctrine can also apply to intangible items, such as bank accounts or intellectual property. In these cases, a person may be considered to have constructive possession if they have knowledge of the item’s existence and the ability to control it.

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Last Modified: 04/09/2023

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