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posted on 2/15/19

The scene is a common one in Illinois: You are out with friends and the police pull you over, perhaps for a relatively minor traffic violation, like rolling through a stop sign, speeding, or having a broken taillight. Officers conduct a search and find that another person in the car has marijuana. Instead of a traffic ticket, now you are charged with possession of drugs. You could face jail time, steep fines, probation, and other penalties – even if you did not have the marijuana on your person. Fortunately, you may have a defense based upon on what constitutes “possession” in the eyes of the law. An Illinois drug crimes defense attorney can explain how the laws apply to your case, but some general information may be helpful.

Actual or Constructive Possession is the Key

You probably know that possession of marijuana is illegal under the Illinois Controlled Substances Act, unless you have medical condition and prescription. However, the statute does not contain details what “possession” means. The determination is based upon the surrounding circumstances. Obviously, you can be arrested for actual possession if you have marijuana in your pocket, a purse, tucked into your pants, or otherwise on your person.

However, if someone else in the car has marijuana, you could still be charged with drug offense under the theory of constructive possession. The question is whether you have some degree of control over the marijuana. Questions related to control may include:

  • Were you the owner of the car?
  • Were you driving someone else’s car?
  • Did the person who had the pot have actual or constructive possession?
  • Was the marijuana in a place where you had limited access, like the glove box, center console, or back seat?

Depending on the answers to these questions, you could be arrested and convicted for constructive possession of drugs, even if you did not even know the marijuana was in the car.

You May Avoid a Conviction Through a Strong Defense Strategy

One option for fighting the charges is to contest the facts or present evidence that overcomes the assumptions of police. When someone else had sole control of the marijuana, it contradicts the idea that that you exercised some control.

In addition, you may have a defense based upon the investigation by officers that led to discovery of the drugs. Under the US and Illinois Constitutions, you are protected against unreasonable search and seizure by police. Any evidence discovered through unlawful search is not admissible in court and can not be presented by the prosecutor. Without key evidence, the charges against you could be dismissed or you may be acquitted at trial.

Consult with an Illinois Drug Crimes Defense Attorney About Your Case

Even when you are not holding the drugs, you could be arrested for marijuana possession. Still, always remember: An arrest does not mean you are guilty. To learn more about options for your defense, please contact Glasgow & Olsson. You can schedule a consultation by calling 847.577.8700 or going online. Our drug crimes defense lawyers represent clients in Cook, Lake, DuPage, and McHenry Counties, and we look forward to working with you.

(image courtesy of Florian Wehde)