Drug possession is the crime of intentional possession of illegal substances, such as marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. Drug possession accounts for more than 80 percent of all drug-related arrests in the United States, says Department of Justice. In addition, almost half of those arrests are for possession of marijuana. Partly because of law enforcement campaigns targeting these crimes, arrests for drug possession have nearly doubled in the past two decades.
A person who knowingly has direct physical control over a thing, at any given time, is in real possession of it. Along with precursors, devices, accessories and products used to use illegal drugs will also lead to one being charged with possession; this is called drug paraphernalia. Therefore, if a husband gives his wife any medication for which she believes he has a prescription, when in fact he obtained it illegally, he would probably not be charged with possession because he believed the drug was legal. While simple possession is often a misdemeanor, possession with intent to distribute generally carries much harsher sentences.
For example, if a man borrows his friend's car and, when the police stop him, he is discovered that there are drugs hidden in the car, he cannot be charged with possession of drugs if he can prove that he had no idea that the car contained drugs. Drug possession is a type of crime that involves having one or more drugs considered illegal in “possession of one”. Constructive possession means that the person has the power to knowingly possess the illegal substance; for example, if there are drugs in the center console of a car and all occupants could open the console. Possession of small quantities of illegal drugs for personal use is commonly referred to as “simple possession”, while possession of large quantities of illegal drugs generally results in the charge of possession “with intent to distribute”.
If a person is found to be in possession of a small amount of an illegal substance, but they are also found to be in possession of common materials used to distribute or sell drugs, such as digital scales or plastic bags, they will most likely be charged with possession with intent to distribute it. It has often been argued in this State that possession prohibited by drug laws need not be actual physical custody of the controlled substance; it is sufficient for the State to prove that the defendant has been in constructive possession of the contraband material by demonstrating that he was aware of its presence and the power and the intention to control their disposition or use. Actual possession applies to those who have physical control of drugs at the time of discovery, such as someone who has drugs in their pocket. Some states consider “mere possession of marijuana to be a “minor offense, resulting in a lighter sentence than possession of “controlled substances such as cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, ecstasy, or legal (prescription) drugs that are illegally possessed.
The crime of drug possession also extends to items beyond the drugs themselves, including chemical precursors used to make drugs and drug paraphernalia. Constructive possession of drugs can lead to several people being charged in the same instance, since several people may have the ability to exercise control of the substance at the same time. Since these items can also be used for legal purposes, such as dispensing legal medications or smoking tobacco, prosecution for possession of drug paraphernalia generally requires additional testing to connect the item to drug use, such as residue left in a drug pipe. Possession prohibited by law is not only actual physical custody of a controlled hazardous substance, but also constructive possession of it.