Although state and federal laws may vary, a person has possession of an illegal substance when that person knows of its presence and has physical control of it. A person also has possession of an illegal substance such as a narcotic if that person has the power and intention to control it. Criminal possession is the holding of property that is illegal to possess. The police can find possession in two ways:
- Actual Possession
Typically, a person has actual possession of an illegal substance when it is physically on their person.
- Constructive Possession
It is possible for a person to be in possession of an illegal substance even when it is not on their physical person. A person can even be in possession of an illegal substance she does not own. Furthermore, it is also possible for more than one person to be in possession of the illegal substance.
Although state laws may vary, a person is generally guilty of manufacturing a drug when they produce an illegal substance by means of a chemical synthesis or a natural extraction. The manufacturing of drugs can also include the packaging or repacking of the substance or the labeling and re-labeling of its container. Often, this is not done by a single person acting alone. Since there are often multiple people involved in the manufacturing process, anyone who is involved but was not physically manufacturing the drugs at the time that they were arrested may be charged with conspiracy.
State laws can vary on the meaning of "use" in drug related crimes. Typically, this entails using an illegal controlled substance not prescribed by a licensed physician or practitioner.
While state laws may vary, a person is generally guilty of "distribution" when he transfers a controlled substance to another person. The transfer can be:
A transfer is "actual" when a person physically transfers the controlled substance to another.
The law permits the government to prove that a person intends to sell or distribute an illegal substance through their actions or the quantity of drugs in their possession. For instance, evidence of a large quantity of drugs packaged in small bindles may infer that a person’s drugs are "packaged to sell" rather than for personal use. Thus, the intent to distribute can be inferred without any evidence of actual distribution.
A transfer is "attempted" when the person attempts to transfer the controlled substance to another, but is otherwise prevented from doing so.
Distribution can carry the harshest penalties out of all the drug crimes because it involves enabling the drug use of others and the perpetuation of drug problems plaguing society.