Imagine this: You ask your buddy for a ride to work and the police pull him over for speeding. The officer decides that your friend looks stoned, which eventually leads to a search of the vehicle.
The next thing you know, you're in handcuffs right beside your friend because marijuana was found under the passenger seat you were sitting in. It doesn't matter that you insist the drugs aren't yours. Nor does it matter that the drugs were found somewhere other than on your body. As far as the police are concerned, you and your buddy are equally as guilty of the possession of illegal drugs.
Think that sounds far-fetched? It isn't. It happens all the time under a rule known as "constructive possession." Unlike actual possession, which means having true physical control over something, constructive possession means that you have access and control over something -- even if you don't physically have it in your possession.
For example, if you have a thousand dollars in your pocket, that's actual possession. If you hide the money in your dresser drawer where you can get to it as you need it, that's constructive possession. You don't have the money physically on your body, but you certainly have access and control over it.
The problem with constructive possession is that it is very easy for victims of circumstance to get caught up in a prosecutor's sites. All it takes is being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
However, there are defenses available in a constructive possession case. One defense involves showing the court that you simply didn't know the drugs were there. Without any knowledge of their presence, you certainly couldn't exercise control over them.
For example, it's one thing if the car you were in reeked of marijuana smoke. It might be harder to deny all knowledge of the drugs. However, if there was a small amount of marijuana tucked in a sealed tin under the seat, there would be no telltale odor to alert you that the drugs were there.
Never assume that your drug case is hopeless -- no matter what the police tell you. Even in cases that seem insurmountable, there are often numerous ways to contest the evidence and defeat the prosecution's arguments.
Source: wiseGeek, "What is Constructive Possession?," accessed June 14, 2018