What Is Constructive Versus Actual Possession in Illinois Drug Cases?

St. Charles drug possession defense attorney

In Illinois, it is a crime to possess illicit substances such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or heroin. However, knowing exactly what counts as being in possession of these substances is not always easy. For example, if a passenger drops a small baggie of cocaine in your car, and it is later discovered by police, are you considered to be in possession of the substance, even though it was not technically on your person? It is essential if you are facing drug charges in Illinois to understand the nature of the charges laid against you and to be fully informed of your defense options. Being charged with possession of a controlled substance can result in significant penalties, so it is imperative to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney right away.

The Definition of Drug "Possession"

There are two distinct forms of possession according to Illinois law: actual possession and constructive possession. If you are caught by police with illegal drugs on you, this is considered actual possession. The illicit substance may be discovered in your hand, in your pocket, or in a backpack or purse belonging to you. You may also be charged with actual possession if law enforcement witnesses you attempting to hide or dispose of the substance. For example, if an officer sees you throw something out of your car window while you are being pulled over, you may be accused of being in actual possession of an illicit substance.

Constructive possession refers to a situation in which you do not have the illegal substance on you, but the substance was found within your property. Unfortunately, even if you were not the person who brought drugs into your car, you can still be charged with drug possession if law enforcement finds them in your vehicle. Constructive possession can also refer to drugs that are discovered in your home.

Fortunately, in order for you to be convicted of drug possession in Illinois, the prosecution must prove that you knowingly possessed the drugs. Whether prosecutors are arguing that you were in actual possession or constructive possession of the substances, they must prove that you were aware of the drugs in order to secure a conviction, and this burden of proof can be difficult in many cases. 

Drug possession in Illinois is typically charged as a felony. However, the criminal penalties vary significantly depending on the type of substance discovered in your possession and the quantity of the substance. If you are caught possessing a large quantity of a controlled substance, you may face elevated charges for possession with intent to distribute. If convicted, you could face years or even decades behind bars.

Contact an Illinois Drug Charges Defense Attorney

Sometimes, drug possession charges are brought against the wrong individual. If you or a loved one has been charged with possession of a controlled substance in Illinois, you need an attorney who will aggressively fight for your freedom. Call the Law Office of Glenn M. Sowa, LLC at 630-232-1780 today and schedule a confidential consultation with an accomplished St. Charles criminal defense lawyer to discuss your case.