You were driving around town with your friend. You stepped a little too heavy on the gas, so the police stopped you for speeding. At first, you weren’t too concerned, but then the officer pulled a plastic baggie out from under your friend’s seat. Can you be arrested for that?

The answer depends on whether the state can prove the contraband was yours. Possession can be actual or constructive. Actual possession means you basically had the item on your person. Constructive possession means you knew the drugs or weapons were present, and you exercised immediate and exclusive control over the area in which they were found.

If the baggie was under your seat or you were the only person with access to the car, the state may prove constructive possession. If instead the baggie was hidden from you and out of your reach but not your friend’s, you may be able to raise a reasonable doubt that the item was yours.

If you have been charged with a criminal offense, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. As with most criminal offenses, the state must prove all the elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. An experienced attorney can probe for weaknesses in the state’s case.

If you have questions about this or another related Illinois criminal or traffic matter, please contact Matt Keenan at 847-568-0160 or email

Reference: People v. Thomas.

(Besides Skokie, Matt Keenan also serves the communities of Arlington Heights, Chicago, Deerfield, Des Plaines, Evanston, Glenview, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Niles, Northbrook, Park Ridge, Rolling Meadows, Wilmette and Winnetka.)

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