New York Criminal cases often hinge on the legal definition of common terms. Experienced criminal attorneys know that often the legal definition of something is very different than its common definition. The term “possess” has significant legal implications in, among other areas, drug and weapons cases. Attorneys must be aware of the court rulings interpreting the term and how it applies to weapons and drugs. If you are charged with a crime that has possession as one of its elements, the lawyers at Westchester County based Tilem & Campbell would be happy to offer you a free consultation regarding your case.

Possess: (PL § 10.00(8)). To “possess” is to have physical possession or to otherwise exercise dominion or control over tangible property. The exact definition of “possess” for purposes of the Penal Law and the Criminal Procedure Law is found in PL § 10.00(8)

Actual physical possession is fairly easy to identify; did the person possess the tangible property? However, to exercise dominion or control over tangible property is a somewhat abstract concept. Dominion or control has been defined as “constructive possession”. In order to support an allegation that a defendant was in constructive possession of tangible property, the People (prosecutor) must show that the defendant exercised dominion or control over the property by a sufficient level of control over the area in which the contraband is found or over the person from whom the contraband is seized. People v. Manini, 79 N.Y.2d 561, 594 N.E.2d 563, 584 N.Y.S.2d 282 (N.Y.,1992)

For example, in People v. Torres, 68 N.Y.2d 677, 505 N.Y.S.2d 595, 496 N.E.2d 684 (1986), the New York Court of Appeals, held that the Evidence was sufficient to prove that the Angel Torres was in possession of a controlled substance found in his apartment, despite the fact that he was not in his apartment at time the controlled substance was found and even though others also used the apartment. In other words, Mr. Torres clearly did not physically possess the controlled substance at the time it was found by the police, however, the Court found that Mr. Torres was in constructive possession of the controlled substance because, among things, he was a named tenant on the lease; he had keys to the apartment; and when he arrived at a hotel in Puerto Rico he gave the searched New York apartment address as his home address.

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