California Drug Possession Crime: “Actual” Possession vs. “Constructive” Possession

By: Wallin & Klarich

The most important thing to keep in mind when dealing with a charge involving drug possession in California is an understanding that “ownership” of the substance has little bearing on the question of possession.

California criminal drug crimes are based on violations of laws that do not take into account whether the substance found actually belonged to you or another person. All the law concerns itself with is whether you were in possession of the item. For purposes of California law, possession can be one of two types: (1) actual or (2) constructive.

Actual Possession refers to a situation where an individual has an illegal drug on their person. For example, someone who has a baggie containing cocaine in their pocket would be in “actual possession” of the cocaine. On the other hand, a person can also be in constructive possession of a drug.

Constructive Possession refers to a situation where a person has knowledge of the illegal drug and the ability to access this contraband. Issues regarding constructive possession often arise in the context of a vehicle search. Where an individual is stopped while riding as a passenger in a friend’s car, a search of the vehicle by a police officer reveals cocaine in the glove box. Despite the fact that the passenger was not holding the cocaine, California law still permits the prosecutor to pursue a conviction of the passenger for possession of the cocaine. This legal concept is commonly referred to as “having the ability to exercise dominion and control over the contraband.”

Because of the complexities in California Drug Law, it is absolutely essential to have an experienced attorney by your side. If you or someone you know is facing any drug crime allegations, call the skilled California criminal defense lawyers at Wallin & Klarich. Wallin & Klarich has over 30 years of experience in drug cases. We are here to help you and protect your freedom. Contact Wallin & Klarich for a free consultation at 1-888-280-6839. Also, visit us online at to learn more about your case and what can be done.

Posted In: Criminal Defense