Whatever type of drug charges you may face in Georgia, it goes without saying that to convict you of your alleged offense, the prosecutor must prove that the drugs actually were yours. In other words, (s)he must prove that you owned, possessed or controlled them.

FindLaw explains that the prosecutor can carry his or her burden of proof by proving either actual possession or constructive possession. In an actual possession situation, law enforcement officers find the drugs somewhere on your person. In a constructive possession situation, the circumstances surrounding the drug bust allow the jury to reasonably infer that you owned, controlled or possessed the drugs.

Constructive possession example

Say, for example, that the circumstances constitute the following:

  • You and three friends are riding in your car and a law enforcement officer stops you for an alleged traffic violation.
  • (S)he asks if (s)he can conduct a search your car.
  • You grant the necessary permission — which you should never do.
  • When (s)he attempts to search your glove compartment, (s)he discovers that it is locked.
  • (S)he asks you for its key, which you give to him or her.
  • When (s)he unlocks and opens the glove compartment, (s)he discovers drugs hidden inside.

When the officer testifies to the above circumstances of his or her drug recovery, the jury can reasonably infer that the drugs had to belong to you because you owned both the car and the key to their locked hiding place.

But what if one crucial fact changes? Suppose the officer can only testify that the glove box in which (s)he found the illegal drugs was unlocked. This fact changes everything. Now the jury has no way to infer who owned or possessed the drugs, you or one of the other three. After all, each of you had equal access to your unlocked glove box. Furthermore, each of you had the same opportunity to hide the drugs there. With no way to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that those drugs were yours, the jury cannot convict you of any offense relating to them.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.