Can You Be Charged with Drug Possession If the Drugs Aren’t Yours?Comments Off on Can You Be Charged with Drug Possession If the Drugs Aren’t Yours?
Washington drug laws impose severe penalties on people who possess, sell, or manufacture illegal substances. However, there are certain situations where you may be in possession of drugs that belong to another person. Unfortunately, you can face conviction for drug possession if you have actual or constructive possession over the substance—even if the drugs do not belong to you in the first place. However, you can defend yourself against these charges by enlisting the help of a Washington criminal defense attorney.
What Is Illegal Possession of a Controlled Substance?
Washington law states that it is unlawful for any person to possess a controlled substance unless he or she has a valid prescription or legal authorization to possess it. Drug possession charges range in severity based on the type of substance involved, the amount of the drug that is in your possession, and the presence of prior convictions and aggravating factors.
Controlled substances include heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, oxycodone, and many other drugs defined by the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. Although Washington has legalized recreational and medical marijuana use, there are limits to how much cannabis you can possess at one time and some drug possession laws still apply.
Actual vs. Constructive Possession in Washington Drug Cases
There are two types of possession that play a role in these criminal cases: actual possession and constructive possession. A person has actual possession over a drug if he or she has the substance in his or her physical custody. For example, if a police officer pulls you over, searches your person, and finds a small amount of cocaine in your pocket, you can face charges for actual possession.
On the other hand, a person has constructive possession if he or she has dominion or control over the drug or the premises where officers discovered it. To receive a constructive possession charge, you simply need to have the capacity to take actual possession of the drug at any moment.
For example, say that your roommate borrows your car for a weekend and leaves a small bag of cocaine in your vehicle. If a police officer pulls you over, searches your car, and finds the substance, you can face charges for constructive possession. If your roommate is driving the vehicle, he or she would face constructive possession charges because he or she has the keys—and therefore dominion—to access the vehicle and transfer the substance from constructive to actual possession.
Possible Penalties for Drug Possession
In Washington, drug possession is a serious crime that results in jail time, fines, and administrative penalties. Most cases involving non-cannabis controlled substances are class C felony charges punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine up to $10,000. These penalties can increase based on the circumstances surrounding the case and prior convictions.
Fortunately, you can defend yourself against constructive possession charges in a number of ways. If you did not know about the illegal substance, you did not have control or dominion over the location, or if the substance belongs to another person, the court will likely drop the charges against you.
However, you will need a drug crimes lawyer on your side to adequately convey these defenses. A defense lawyer will understand the defenses, strategies, and laws that could apply to your case, and will advocate for your rights during each step of the process. As soon as possible after your arrest, contact a criminal defense attorney to discuss your case.