Many criminal offenses in the State of Florida require the prosecution to prove that the defendant was in possession of contraband. While the word “possession” may seem easy enough to define, it isn’t where the law is concerned. In fact, the law divides possession into two categories – actual and constructive. If you are ever accused of a crime in Florida and the State uses a constructive possession argument in your case it will matter quite a bit to you what “constructive possession in Florida” means.
As far as the law is concerned “actual possession” refers to a situation where you have physical possession of the item in question. For purposes of illustration, let’s assume that the item in question is a bag of marijuana. If a police officer searches your person and you have the bag of marijuana in the front pocket of your jeans then you are in actual possession of the contraband. Of course, it is not always this cut and dried which is why the concept of “constructive possession” was developed.
To prove that you had constructive possession of an item the State must typically prove that you had “the intent to maintain dominion and control over the contraband”. So what does this mean? Proving that a defendant had constructive possession of an item is very fact specific, meaning there is no clear way to explain with any degree of certainty what qualifies and what does not. The concept is best explained by way of an example. Using the bag of marijuana, assume that instead of the police officer finding the bag of marijuana in your front pocket, imagine that the police pull you over in a vehicle and the bag of marijuana is found within the vehicle. This could qualify as constructive possession. The state will certainly claim that it does if they decide to file charges against you for the contraband. Whether or not the prosecutor is able to prove constructive possession will depend on a number of factors such as:
- Who owned the vehicle
- Who was driving the vehicle
- How many people were in the vehicle
- Where in the vehicle the marijuana was located
- The proximity of the marijuana to where you were located in the vehicle
If you have been charged with a criminal offense based on a constructive possession argument, it is critical that you consult with an experienced Florida criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to determine what legal options and offenses you may have.