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Utah Constructive Possession Attorney - Salt Lake Drug Lawyer

Utah laws on constructive possession can apply to cases of possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of marijuana, and other criminal charges. Under Utah criminal law, constructive possession provides a way for a prosecutor to try to convict you for possession of something that you do not actually possess. But you are not guilty of a crime simply because police find drugs or a paraphernalia item in your car, home, etc. Principles of constructive possession also open the door to potential defenses to Utah drug charges. Having an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer on your side is critical.

Stephen Howard is an experienced criminal defense lawyer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a track record of achieving not guilty verdicts and dismissals some of the most serious criminal charges on the books in Utah. He has also successfully negotiated pleas in abeyance and misdemeanor offers with probation for many serious felony charges. If you are facing prosecution in a Utah drug case that may involve constructive possession or other complex legal issues, Stephen Howard has the experience, determination, skill, and knowledge necessary to help you achieve the results you need.

Proof of Possession in Utah Drug Crimes Prosecutions

Most drug and drug-related criminal prosecutions in Utah require some proof of possession. Under Utah criminal law, the element of possession can be satisfied either by proof of actual possession, or proof of constructive possession. The penalties and consequences for a drug conviction are the same, whether the case involves actual possession or constructive possession.

Salt Lake Drug Crimes Defense LawyerThe concept of "actual" possession is relatively straightforward. For example, if a person found holding a balloon of heroin in his hand or stuffed in his pocket would likely be considered to be in actual possession of that heroin. (A possible exception to this may be a situation of so-called defense of "innocent" possession.)

The concept of "constructive" possession under Utah law is more complex. To prove constructive possession, a prosecutor must present proof that you had both the ability and the intent to exercise control over the item. The concept of intent in a constructive possession case includes both knowledge of the item's existence, and knowledge of the nature of the item. Consider the following example:

If a baggie of heroin were found sitting on the kitchen table in a person's apartment, a prosecuting attorney may try to argue that the person had constructive possession of the heroin. To meet the necessary burden of proof, the prosecutor would have to prove that the person knew of the presence of the drugs and knew what they were. The prosecutor would also have to prove that the person had the ability and intent to exercise control over them. In other words, the prosecutor would have to prove that the person knew what was in the baggie, and had the intent to do something with the drugs (e.g., use them, take them somewhere, or give them to someone). Mere evidence of the presence of drugs is not sufficient to prove constructive possession.

Possible Defenses Involving Constructive Possession in Utah Drug Cases

While constructive possession provides a means whereby a prosecutor may convict you for something you did not actually possess, principles of constructive possession can also provide many opportunities to defend against criminal charges.

Consider a hypothetical case where a balloon of heroin is found in the back seat of a person's car. Constructive possession principles open the door for several possible innocent explanations.

The drugs may belong to one of the other passengers. The drugs could have been left in the car by someone who isn't even there when the drugs are found. Even without providing an explanation for how the drugs got into the car, a person charged with a crime is protected by the presumption of innocence. The burden of proof is on the prosecuting attorney to prove beyond a reasonable doubt not just that the drugs were found in the car, but also that the person charged had the ability and intent to exercise control over the drugs.

Finding a Utah Criminal Defense Lawyer in Salt Lake City

Utah Criminal Defense AttorneyIf you are facing drug charges in Utah, penalties can include jail or prison time and thousands of dollars in fines. Stephen Howard is an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney who has successfully defended drug cases ranging from first-degree felony distribution to misdemeanor possession charges. Based in Salt Lake City, Mr. Howard offers legal services to clients throughout Utah.

Contact us now to schedule an initial consultation. See the difference an experienced Utah criminal defense lawyer can make in your case.


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  • Drug Crimes Defense Attorney Utah Dismissed - Client facing first-degree felony drug distribution charge and potential life in prison. Charges were based on allegations that client had sold drugs to an undercover police officer, then made a full confession. Successful mitigation work resulted in negotiated offer of misdemeanor plea-in-abeyance and ultimate dismissal of case.
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  • Violent Crimes Assalt Defense UtahDismissed at Preliminary Hearing - Client charged with aggravated robbery and facing life in prison. Full case analysis and consultation with client allowed the development of a strong defense strategy. Effective cross-examination of the alleged victim at the preliminary hearing resulted in an outright dismissal of all charges by the judge.
  • Utah Probation Attorney Released - Client absconded for more than 10 years from felony probation with Adult Probation and Parole. At an order to show cause hearing, prosecutor argued aggressively for prison. Based on effective mitigation efforts by the defense, the judge agreed to release client without further jail.
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Crippen & Cline, LC, 340 East 400 South, Salt Lake City, UT 84111

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Stephen W. Howard, PC

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