Possession of an illegal weapon or controlled substance is likely to result in an arrest. When someone is alone in a car or had drugs found in their residence, law enforcement will quickly infer and arrest that individual on possession charges.
What happens in the instance where an illegal weapon or controlled substance is found near a person or around multiple people? Will law enforcement proceed to arrest everyone in the vicinity?
Actual vs. Constructive possession
As stated before, if a lone individual is involved in a possession case, law enforcement may quickly infer that the individual is responsible for the violation. Things become much more complicated if the object in question is not found in direct control of the individual.
Actual drug possession is easy enough to understand. If the person in question has full control of possession of the object when searched, either in their hand or otherwise on their person, this would be considered an actual possession.
If there are multiple people in the area and the object isn’t directly or obviously tied to any one person, this is where law enforcement will make a constructive inference. Law enforcement will try and assign ownership based on the object’s proximity, who has access to it, if the object is near or within a bag or container owned by a specific individual, and so forth.
The charge in a constructive possession case is more supposition than evidence-related. If evidence can persuasively attribute blame somewhere else, a final conviction may be avoided.
What it means
Thankfully, law enforcement officers will not arrest everyone near where the object was found. If the object is located near someone at a park or in a car full of people, law enforcement may be able to infer ownership, but that doesn’t mean the individual charged is guilty of possession.