Elements of Drug Possession

In order to provide clients with the best defense, we like to make sure that they understand the elements of drug possession offenses.  First, in order to be charged with drug possession, an individual must clearly have a drug on their person or in their charge such as in a location over which they have legal ownership.  Second, the substance must be in such a form that it can be used/consumed, and it must be of a sufficient quantity.  Therefore, to use a colorful but helpful analogy, many people have heard of the fact that virtually all U.S. currency has trace amounts of bodily fluids as well as illicit drugs such as cocaine.  If people could be arrested for possessing any amount of an illegal drug, than literally everyone could be arrested, well, those who have paper currency.  But this would be unreasonable, right?  Of course it would.  So, a very important element of possession is amount.  A sufficient amount of a drug can lead to a charge of possession with the intent to use or sell (an additional element), depending upon the amount and the particulars of the case.

Third, even though ignorance of the law is no excuse for breaking it, as the adage goes, it does actually matter to some extents whether a person is knowledgeable about said possession.  In some cases, one’s lack of knowledge can be a matter of being planted with a substance rather than a bona fide criminal act of possession.  For real possession to be charged, a person must have demonstrated dominion and control over such a substance in any number of ways.  Dominion refers to the fact that a substance is in your charge, and control means that you have agency over where it goes, how it is used, etc.