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Constructive Possession of Drugs in Pennsylvania: An Exercise in Legal Fiction or Practical Evidentiary Analysis?

NCJ Number
Journal of Drug Issues Volume: 21 Issue: 3 Dated: (Summer 1991) Pages: 505-526
C P Nemeth
Date Published
22 pages
The definition of possession in controlled substances legislation is analyzed with particular focus on Pennsylvania appellate rulings on actual and constructive possession of illegal drugs.
Because of the massive drug litigation of the last 20 years, Pennsylvania law is more successfully formulated. Greater emphasis is placed on constructive possessory offenses rather than the few actual physical possession cases, since many inferential variables have emerged and need to be considered by a court in the decisionmaking process. The following evidentiary factors are deemed crucial to prove such a case: dominion and control, presence, intentions and knowledge, quantity, proprietary interest, proximity, duration, past possession, location, and miscellaneous factors. This analysis of Pennsylvania appellate decision shows a strict adherence to the totality of circumstances doctrine and manifests the same emphasis on control and use, location of contraband, other parties, defendants' proximity, and other nexus with the contrabands' location. Based on these variables, a set of guidelines can be established to develop a standardized list of evidentiary factors similar to the criteria in sentencing and other legal process. In this way, the legislative and the judiciary can determine and rule with more precision and insight. 76 notes (Author abstract modified)


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