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Minnesota law makes it a crime to possess many controlled substances. This seems simple enough, but the legal concept of possession can be complicated and, at times, difficult to understand.

Possession is not the same as ownership.

Possession is mostly about control over an item. This makes it possible to possess an item, even if it does not belong to you. If you borrow it, steal it, or hold on to it for someone else and are exercising control over it (even temporarily), it is in your possession.

Possession can be sole or joint.

It is possible for multiple people to possess the same thing at the same time.

Knowledge is important.

You cannot possess something you do not know about. If somebody put something in the trunk of your car, or your purse, or your coat pocket without your knowledge, you do not possess it. (Though you might have a hard time convincing anyone you did not know it was there.)

Constructive possession can be complicated.

It is possible to possess something even if you are not near it. The law generally provides that you possess something if you consciously exercise dominion and control over it. If you leave your coat in your car, lock the car, and walk away, do you still possess the coat? Probably. If you leave your coat in your friend’s car, they lock the car, and you walk away, do you still possess the coat? Maybe, but maybe not. Does your friend possess your coat? Maybe.

In a criminal case, the state has the burden of proof.

The prosecutor must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that you possessed the illegal item. All of the details can be important – what it was, where it was, who it belonged to, where you were at the time. Sometimes forensic testing, including fingerprints and DNA, can be telling.

Every case is unique.

Every case has its own set of facts, so it must be analyzed based on the facts and evidence which apply to that unique case.

But certain general rules still apply. You have the right to remain silent. You do not need to make the job of the police easier by giving statements or making admissions. You have the right to an attorney. Our attorneys have decades of experience defending individuals charged with unlawful possession. Contact us today so we can put our experience to work for you and give you the straight talk and honest answers you deserve.