Marijuana and Controlled Substances: The Definition of Possession

By Allen, Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer Kyle T. Therrian
Office Number: (972) 562-7549
24 Hr Jail Release: (214) 403-6522

How the law defines possession makes a difference when dealing with drug offenses like Possession of Marijuana and Possession of Controlled Substances. In fact, the adage “possession is nine tenths of the law” is not that far from a true statement when defending a drug case.

The Definition of Possession and How it Relates to Marijuana and Controlled Substances

Possession is specifically defined under Texas Penal Code Section 1.07 as having “actual care custody control or management.” Inexact as this definition may be, there are several things which it is not. Possession is not “you are responsible for the contents of your home/vehicle,” it is not “you knew it was there,” and possession is most certainly not “guilty by association.” These are phrases officers sometimes toss around to scare people into confessing–perhaps because it is a familiar standard our parents would have held us to as children. In a system where the accused is afforded the benefit of the doubt, possession is not always that simple.

Putting these notions aside where they belong, the definition of possession is still fairly broad. Obviously, a person can be held accountable for more than what is discovered in his/her pockets, especially if that person admits to ownership. However, in scenarios where pills are found in a car full of people or marijuana is discovered in a college apartment shared by 4 roommates, the individual or individuals with care, custody, control or management is not always clear cut. In situations like this, it is the State’s burden to piece together circumstantial evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that the person they accused was truly the person in possession. This can be an easy or difficult task depending upon how vigorously a case is defended.

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What’s more, the State must show that possession was intentional or knowing. This most commonly becomes an issue when a person is asked to store or hold something for a friend. Even if the unsuspecting party were to discover a bag of pills or something that would pique an ordinary person’s curiosity, our courts have said on several occasions the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt “the accused knew the substance was contraband,” and what may be obvious to an officer with years of training and experience may not be obvious to the average Joe.

What is the takeaway from all this?

First, don’t self-diagnose your own legal issues–if you turn what someone once told you into the law, there is a good chance you make a bad decision based on bad advice. Second, if you are fortunate enough to have read this before being investigated by the police, you should know that you have the right to remain silent and should explicitly exercise that right and contact a lawyer immediately.

*Kyle Therrian is an attorney licensed to practice in the State of Texas. Nothing in this article is intended to be legal advice. For legal advice on any case you should contact an attorney directly.

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