When the state of Iowa takes legal action against someone accused of drug possession, proving that person possessed the drugs is a major part of the legal process. Unfortunately, people who weren’t actually in possession of drugs could still wind up charged with drug possession if law enforcement officers find them in close proximity to drugs or find drugs on their property.
For example, maybe you were driving a car full of friends to a party. When you got pulled over, someone in the back seat emptied their pockets and kicked their cocaine, which you didn’t know they had, under the front seat. When police searched your vehicle, they found the cocaine.
Given that no one would claim it, you as the owner of the vehicle are the one who wound up charged. In a situation like this, understanding the difference between actual and constructive possession can help you build a more successful criminal defense strategy.
Actual position involves having a drug on your person
If a police officer stops you and tells you to turn out your pockets, getting caught with drugs in that situation will involve actual possession. The drugs were clearly on your person, which means that you (most likely) were aware of their presence and had control over them. Police and prosecutors will have a relatively straightforward process for proving that the drugs were yours in the eyes of the law.
Constructive possession is more complex
In a situation where you had proximity to drugs or where drugs were found on your property or in your vehicle, law enforcement or state prosecutors may attempt to build a case around the concept of constructive possession.
Constructive possession implies that a person was aware of the drug’s presence, aware of what the drug was and functionally had control over that drug. In the previously mentioned situation where a friend kicked the cocaine under the seat of the vehicle, forensic evidence may eventually help prove that neither your DNA nor your fingerprints were found on the packaging for the drugs.
That would assist in challenging constructive possession allegations, as you weren’t aware of the item’s existence and didn’t have physical control over or interaction with them.