Drug Possession

Hi, my name’s Dale Savage, and I’m a Criminal Defense Attorney here in Charleston, South Carolina, and today I want to talk to you about the drug possession laws in this state. When we’re talking about drug possession in South Carolina, we’re talking about two legal theories under which the police can charge you, and they are actual possession and constructive possession, and it’s really important that you understand the difference between the two and how you can be charged or how the state can support those charges here in South Carolina.

Actual Possession

When we’re talking about actual possession, we’re talking about drugs that are found physically on your body. Now, that can be in your pocket, in your wallet, in your purse, your handbag, your shoe, your socks, in your hand, under your hat, anywhere that’s on your person. If police lawfully come across you and search you and find those drugs within those areas, then you can and will be charged with possession under our laws.

Constructive Possession

The second type of possession cases is constructive possession, and what this means is that you must have the right to exercise dominion and control over the drugs that police find. The main difference between actual possession and constructive possession is that when you’re dealing with actual possession, typically, only one person is going to be charged. When you’re dealing with constructive possession, two or more people can be charged for the same substance, and you don’t even actually have to have physical possession of the drugs to be charged. There are typically two scenarios where constructive possession cases come up: one is in a residence where you live, whether that be an apartment or your home, and the second one is typically in a vehicle during a traffic stop.

When we’re talking about your residence, what we’re talking about is that the drugs must be found in an open area where everyone has access for them for two or more people to be charged. If those drugs are located, say, in the kitchen or in the living room area or somewhere in a common area within that residence where everyone has access to that area, then whoever resides in that residence can be charged even if they don’t physically have possession of those drugs and even if they don’t have ownership.

Possession of drugs does not mean that you own the drugs; it just means that you have the physical ability to touch, control them, possess them. Now, where this gets a little tricky in a residence is if the drugs are not found in an open area, and that typically comes up if they’re found in someone’s bedroom and no one else has access to that room, and sometimes they may be denied access to that room. There may be a padlock or the access to that room may be locked for some reason, and that’s a better case where only one person should be charged under constructive possession living in a residence.

Traffic Stop

The second scenario that we typically deal with constructive possession cases is in a traffic stop and the drugs are found within your vehicle. The first person that’s going to be charged in that scenario is going to be the driver, and the driver’s going to be charged because the driver’s deemed to have the right to exercise dominion and control over anything that’s inside that vehicle. That means that even if the drugs aren’t found in the open, they could be found inside the center console, inside the glove box, somewhere else inside that vehicle, if the drugs are found in that car, then the driver is going to be charged under the constructive possession laws even though they didn’t have physical possession of those drugs.

Charleston, SC Criminal Defense Attorney

Now, if the drugs are located somewhere else in that vehicle and they’re found out in the open or police find those drugs in the open, then more than two people, if there’s more than two people in that vehicle, can be charged with constructive possession under our laws. So, if you’ve been charged with a drug crime, please give me a call at (843) 530-7813. I’m more than happy to look at your case and review it and analyze any defenses you may have based under our actual possession or constructive possession laws. Again, thanks for watching, and I hope this video was helpful.

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