Facing a drug crime in Virginia? The following is what prosecutors will need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict you of a criminal offense. To discuss your case in more detail and begin developing a defense, call and schedule a consultation with a Prince William drug lawyer today.
What prosecutors need to prove in order to establish a drug conviction varies depending on the kind of charge. In a possession case, the prosecution has to show beyond a reasonable doubt that an individual was aware of the presence and character of an illegal substance and intentionally and consciously possessed it.
In a constructive possession case (a case where the drugs are found nearby the person rather than on them) they must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the illegal substance was within the accused’s reach and that they knew it was there and what it was.
With respect to possession with intent to distribute, the prosecutor has to show beyond a reasonable doubt that the person was not only aware of the presence and character or the illegal drugs and intentionally and consciously possessed it, but also that the quantity of the drugs or other circumstantial evidence points to distribution activities; that the accused in fact intended to distribute, sell, or give away the illegal drugs.
And then, with sale or manufacturing, proving in the case of sale that money or something else of value was exchanged for the illegal drug or, in the case of manufacturing, showing that the individual was involved in the process of making the drugs.
Prosecutors go about proving their case by using a number of different kinds of evidence. These can include statements from the accused, witness testimony, forensic evidence, as well as circumstantial evidence. All of which will be used to try to demonstrate that each element of the offense have been met beyond a reasonable doubt.
The key element in possession with intent to distribute is “intent. Of course, it’s impossible to read someone’s mind to know for sure what their intent was. So the way that intent is most often proved is by the facts and circumstances of the case, sometimes we refer to this as circumstantial evidence. For example the presence of scales, baggies, a ledger book, cash, or cutting agents are circumstances which may tend to show an intent to distribute, even where the quantity of drugs is small.
Constructive possession is when someone is charged with possessing drugs that were not found immediately on their person, but rather were found in a place like their vehicle or their home, a boat, or a motorcycle.
The Commonwealth has to prove that the defendant was aware of both the presence and character of the substance and that it was subject to their dominion and control. This is another kind of case where prosecutors prove the case through circumstantial evidence. The classic example of this are drugs that are found in a vehicle. Anything that is within reach of the accused is going to be said to be within their dominion and control. If it’s something that is in the trunk it is probably not within their immediate dominion and control.
The second piece that they have to prove is that the person is aware that it’s there and knows the character of it, or in other words, knows what it is. This can be proved by showing that something was sitting out in the open. So for example, if a baggie of marijuana was sitting on the floorboard of a car within reach and one could easily look at the baggie and see what it is, then from that circumstantial evidence it can be shown that the person knew that it was there and knew what it was.
However, if drugs were sitting on the floorboard in a closed container such as a strong box or a purse or some other item that conceals the drugs themselves, then in those cases it can often be argued that the person doesn’t know that it’s there and doesn’t know what it is.
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