Many things are highly regulated by the government. From prescription drugs to things like cocaine, such substances can cause harm when misused. Such drugs are classified as controlled substances. Possession of such things without approval can lead to legal consequences. Facing a charge of possession of a controlled substance can mean jail time. Sean Fagan Criminal Defence Lawyer is a law firm that can help you with such an issue if you need legal representation. With a focus on helping clients faced with the possibility of criminal convictions, this firm will fight for your rights if you’re facing possession charges.
What is Illegal Possession of a Controlled Substance?
Many substances are considered dangerous if they fall in the wrong hands. For example, drugs like cocaine and heroin can cause overdose deaths if consumed recklessly. The same applies to many medications. As such, the authorities have classified them as controlled substances. This means their illegal possession is considered a criminal offense. However, just because someone is in possession of a controlled substance does not automatically mean they can face charges of possession. For instance, if an individual is a police informant and is tasked with secretly engaging in a drug sale as part of a sting operation, their possession of drugs in this context is legal, thereby providing them with immunity from prosecution.
Controlled substances are divided into several classes, depending on factors like their ability to cause addiction and overdose deaths. Cocaine and heroin are class 3 drugs. The most dangerous ones are class 1 drugs like lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) and cannabis. These have no known medical use but have a significant potential for abuse.
When a person has no legal permission to carry or distribute any of these controlled substances, they are said to be in possession of a controlled substance. This means that they can be arraigned in court to face charges.
Proving a Controlled Substance Charge
As with nearly every type of crime, a prosecutor has to prove that an individual had full knowledge of a controlled substance when they were arrested with it. There are two elements involved. These include:
Possession means the accused individual had the controlled substance on their person or in an area where they are expected to have control. Actual possession of a controlled substance means the person had it in their pocket or bag. Constructive possession is when the substance is in an area deemed to be the personal space of an individual. These include a vehicle or home. A good example is when a controlled substance is found in a house shared by multiple occupants. If only one person brought the drugs to the house, convicting all the house occupants would mean the prosecution has to prove that they all had control over the drugs.
ii) Knowledge of Possession
Knowing about the possession of a controlled substance can equally land an individual in hot water. For instance, two roommates sharing a common space can each get charged with possession of drugs; only one brought the drugs, and the other only knew of it. While only one roommate may have brought the drugs, the other one can be charged if they knew of the existence of such a controlled substance. In this instance, the prosecution only needs to prove that the “innocent” roommate knew the drugs were present and didn’t report it to the authorities.
Possession, Distribution, or Sale of a Controlled Substance
A significant number of individuals found to have a controlled substance usually intend to distribute and sell them. That’s why many possession charges tend to be accompanied by others like the intent to distribute a controlled substance. Of course, the exact circumstances of the possession and the other facts of the case are crucial to determine this.
A good example is when someone is caught with a large amount of a controlled substance like cocaine. While they automatically face charges of possession, the prosecution can add the charge of intent to distribute. The latter is usually a much more serious charge, carrying harsher punishments. No individual can ever claim that large amounts of a controlled substance in their possession are only for their personal use. As such, having large quantities of these substances tends to carry the charge of possession with the intent to distribute. Other pieces of evidence found on the individual during the time of the arrest can help corroborate this. For example, if the individual was arrested with hundreds of kilos of cocaine along with packaging materials and significant amounts of cash, these are things expected of a drug dealer.
All in all, possession of a controlled substance could have serious legal consequences.