Facing any kind of drug charges in Michigan is serious business. Depending upon which type of drug authorities allege you possessed at the time of your arrest, and the quantity thereof, a conviction could put you in prison for a lengthy period of time as well as impose a very large fine.
However, to convict you of any drug crime, the prosecutor must first prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the drugs the officers recovered actually belonged to you and not someone else. (S)he has two options: prove that you actually possessed the drugs or prove that you constructively possessed them.
Actual versus constructive possession
Proving actual possession is fairly easy and straightforward. The prosecutor usually proves it through the testimony of one or more of the officers who recovered the drugs. If they testify that they found the drugs in, for instance, one of your pockets, that proves that the drugs belonged to you – assuming, naturally, that the judge and/or jury believes the officers’ testimony.
Proving constructive possession, however, is considerably more difficult. Here the prosecutor must prove by circumstantial evidence alone that you owned or controlled the drugs in question. If the circumstantial evidence against you is strong enough, the judge or jury can make the reasonable inference that the drugs belonged to you.
Two illustrative examples
To understand constructive possession, assume the following four facts:
- You and a couple of buddies are riding in your car.
- Officers pull you over for a legal traffic stop.
- They legally search your car.
- They find drugs in your car’s locked glove box to which you gave them the key.
Given the facts of this circumstance, the judge or jury can reasonably infer that you constructively possessed the drugs because you controlled their hiding place through your ownership of the glove box key.
Now assume the same first three facts but switch the fourth one. This time the officers find a baggie underneath your car’s front passenger seat that contains drugs. The facts of this new circumstance make it impossible for the judge or jury to determine beyond a reasonable doubt who possessed the drugs. After all, your passengers had just as much access to the passenger seat as you did and just as much opportunity as you to place the baggie underneath it.
In a situation such as this, it is highly unlikely that your case will ever get to trial. Instead, your attorney likely can convince the prosecutor to drop all charges against you.