Authorities in Will County seized more than 800 cannabis plants that were growing in the ground in Beecher, a small village located south of Chicago.
Officers belonging to the multi-jurisdictional Kankakee Area Metropolitan Enforcement Group descended on the area after receiving a tip from the Illinois State Police. In addition to 812 plants, officials seized equipment and tools that may have been used in cannabis plant production and therefore may qualify as drug paraphernalia.
Investigators are working to determine who owned the plants and why they were being grown there, but evidence suggests cultivation for distribution purposes.
Normally, we think of possession in personal terms. For example, we often think that my car keys, my wallet, and my phone are my possessions. But in a legal sense, possession can be either personal or impersonal, or to use the legal terms, actual or constructive. In other words, in some situations, Ben’s car keys could also be considered my car keys. Or, to use the above story, Ben’s marijuana plants could also be my marijuana plants.
As indicated, constructive possession often applies when there are multiple occupants in a single vehicle, or multiple residents in a single residence, and one illegal item, like one marijuana baggie or meth lab. To establish possession, the prosecutor must prove three elements:
- Nature of the Substance: “Field tests,” which many times consist of little more than a visual inspection, are not always
- Knowledge: The defendant must know that the substance in the baggie was actually cocaine or marijuana or whatever.
- Control: To prove actual possession, the substance must be in the immediate care, custody, or control of the defendant. To prove constructive possession, the defendant must have the capability and intent to exercise dominion or control over the object.
The prosecutor must prove each element beyond any reasonable doubt.
Drug Possession Defenses
The first element, substance identity, is fairly straightforward because the substance either is or is not what the prosecutor claims it to be. It is normally a good idea to ensure that the substance was laboratory-tested as well as field-tested.
The next two elements must be established by circumstantial evidence, and therefore, they are much easier to challenge. People v. McIntyre (2011) is one of the leading cases in this area. In this case, Anthony McIntyre was a convicted felon and could not legally possess a firearm. He drove a man to a spot where he believed there would be a fistfight, but once they reached the location, his passenger unexpectedly pulled out a gun and started shooting. The pair immediately fled in their vehicle, but the police eventually caught up with them. Subsequently, Mr. McIntyre was charged with illegal gun possession.
Even though the firearm was obviously not his personal possession, Mr. McIntyre could still be convicted based on constructive possession. But the court ruled that some of the traditional methods of proving constructive possession, are inadequate. These methods include:
- Proximity to the object,
- Status as an owner or driver (these people are sometimes imputed with knowledge of everything that takes place in the house or car), or
- Knowledge of the object’s presence and location.
Instead, the prosecutor must prove that the defendant had either actual or potential control over the contraband, and this element was clearly not present.
Rely on Experienced Attorneys
Constructive possession is a powerful tool, but it is not easy to prove. For prompt assistance from an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Schaumburg, contact Glasgow & Olsson today, because the sooner you call, the sooner we can begin working on your defense.
(image courtesy of Pauk)