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What's required for a drug possession conviction?

Being accused of a crime such as drug possession is one thing. Being convicted of the crime is another. As with any kind of criminal charge, prosecutors will need to prove that the accused person was in possession of illegal substances and guilty of drug possession under the letter of the law. If the prosecution cannot prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the defendant will remain innocent of the crime and will not face any kind of punishment.

This brings one to the question: What's required for a drug possession conviction? Generally, drug possession laws require that the prosecution prove the following beyond a reasonable doubt:

  • The defendant was aware that the substance he or she was carrying was a controlled substance; or, at the very least, that any reasonable person should have known that the drug was a controlled substance.
  • The defendant was knowingly in possession of the substance on his or her person, or he or she was in control of the drug based on its location. In this sense, the drug did not actually need to be in the defendant's pocket. It could have been in a storage room or locker that the defendant had control over.

Until, and only if, the prosecution can prove the above facts, the defendant will remain innocent of the crime.

There will be many cases in which the prosecution will likely be able to prove the above facts based on the evidence. In these situations, the accused person may want to enter into a plea bargain by pleading guilty to one or more offenses in exchange for a reduction in punishments.

Source: Findlaw, "Drug possession overview," accessed Feb. 01, 2018

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