What is Possession of a Controlled Substance?

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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 28 July 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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A person may be charged with a crime if she illicitly uses or obtains items that are outlined in her jurisdiction’s criminal code as controlled substances. This can include items such as marijuana, morphine, and crack cocaine. Possession of a controlled substance is a criminal offense that tends to be greatly affected by the circumstances of the case. For example, the type of substance and the quantity that is discovered can determine whether a person is convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony. This offense may also be aggravated by circumstances such as possession of a firearm.

Controlled substances are items whose usage is regulated, such as morphine and promethezine, or items that are deemed illegal, such as cocaine and heroin. There are a number of circumstances that could result in a person being charged with possession of a controlled substance. A person may, for example, be charged with this offense for possessing prescription medications that do not belong to her.

In some instances, a person may be charged and convicted of this crime even though the controlled substance was not physically in his possession. This can happen if items outlined under this offense are found in an area that is or should be under an individual’s control. This may be seen in cases where drugs are found in a person’s luggage or in his office.


A possession of controlled substance charge is greatly impacted by the circumstances of a case. One of the primary factors that plays a role in the outcome is the type of substance that is discovered. Another major factor is the quantity. Some substances may result in felony charges despite the amount found in a person’s possession. Other substances, when possessed in amounts below a specified limit, will only result in misdemeanor charges.

In some jurisdictions, a possession of a controlled substance charge may be aggravated by certain circumstances. An example of this is when penalties are intensified because the offense occurred on or near a school. Another common example is a case where a person is also found to be in possession of a firearm.

The penalties for possession of a controlled substance are largely inconsistent from one jurisdiction to another. To begin with, a particular amount of a substance may be a felony in one place but only a misdemeanor in another. Furthermore, felonies and misdemeanors are treated differently in different jurisdictions. Common consequences, however, include fines, incarceration, and mandatory substance abuse programs. When the crime is aggravated, the consequences tend to be notably more severe.



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