Drug Possession and Distribution

Taylor Monfort

Drug possession and distribution is a serious offense with severe penalties.  A charge of possession of drugs with the intent to distribute is a serious offense that carries with it significant penalties, including potential years of jail time. In federal court, to convict a defendant of possession with the intent to distribute, the government must prove: (1) possession of a narcotic controlled substance; (2) knowledge of the possession; and (3) the intent to distribute. A determination whether the drugs are intended for distribution is fact specific. The federal courts have ruled that the intent to distribute can be inferred from a number of factors, including but not limited to: (1) the quantity of the drugs; (2) the packaging; (3) where the drugs are hidden; and (4) the amount of cash seized with the drugs.

A conviction of possession with the intent to distribute may be based on actual or constructive possession. A person may have constructive possession of contraband if he has ownership, dominion, or control over the contraband or the premises or vehicle in which the contraband was concealed. Proof of constructive possession requires proof that the defendant had knowledge of the presence of the contraband, but constructive possession may be established by either circumstantial or direct evidence. Either way, a fact finder may properly consider the totality of the circumstances surrounding the defendant’s arrest and his alleged possession.

State of Virginia Law

The law for possession with intent to distribute drugs in the Commonwealth of Virginia is similar to that of the federal law described above. Constructive possession may be established by evidence of acts, statements, or conduct of the accused or other facts or circumstances which tend to show that the defendant was aware of both the presence and the character of the substance and that it was subject to his dominion and control. As with federal law, a determination of possession in Virginia is based on the totality of the circumstances.