Wednesday, July 29, 2015

THE LAW ON PROVING POSSESSION OF DRUGS OR WEAPONS IN ILLINOIS

The police are at your door with a search warrant or maybe they’ve stopped your car for a traffic ticket. In either case, they uncovered drugs, weapons or some other contraband. Can they prove the illegal goods are really yours?

Unless you’re caught red-handed, the state can show the contraband is yours through the doctrine of “constructive possession.” To do so, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt: 1) that you had knowledge of the contraband and 2) that you exercised immediate and exclusive control over the area where the goods were found. This evidence can be circumstantial.

A recent Illinois appellate case provides a good illustration of the law. (See People v Maldonado.) In Maldonado, the court reversed defendant’s convictions for possessing heroin and ammunition. The state did not prove that the defendant had control over the premises where the search took place. Although the state had three pieces of mail addressed to defendant at the premises, it still could not show that the defendant had been near the contraband or even at the site.

Mail addressed to a defendant where contraband is recovered may prove possession if the defendant is at the scene during the search. However, mail alone may not be enough if the defendant is not present and there is little other evidence to show the defendant lives at the search premises.

The court contrasted the facts in Maldonado with a prior case where defendant had keys to both the home and the bedroom where the drugs were found, listed the search premises on his driver’s license, received mail at that location and gave the premises as his address to his parole officer.

If you are charged with this or a similar offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for your best possible defense. Even if the evidence against you is overwhelming, an attorney, who is respected at the courthouse may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea agreement than you can on your own.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email matt@mattkeenanlaw.com.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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