Updated October 4, 2017:

You were visiting a friend when a police raided his home. In the raid, police found some ammunition or other weapons. You have a criminal record and are not allowed to possess these items. Can the police charge you with illegal possession? Can they prove the contraband was yours?

Under Illinois law, the state may prove either actual or constructive possession of contraband in order to show it belonged to you rather than someone else.

Actual knowledge may be proven if the illegal weapons are found on your person or in your immediate possession or control.

The State can prove constructive possession through circumstantial evidence. Here, the State must show that you knew about the illegal items and exercised immediate and exclusive control over the area where they were found. Constructive possession can be demonstrated when you once had physical control over the items and you intended to exercise control again, you did not abandon the items, and no other person obtained possession.

In one Illinois case, People v Moore, police were executing a search warrant when they saw defendant jump out a bathroom window. While police found some of defendant’s clothing and one piece of his mail inside the house, a defense witness testified that defendant did not live there. The court held that defendant’s flight did not prove constructive possession of the ammunition. The mail and clothing were also not enough to prove possession, since they were found in another part of the home from the bullets and drugs.

In People v Terrell, the defendant was convicted based on contraband found in a hidden compartment in the hall closet. Although some of defendant’s personal items were found inside the home, the state could not prove that defendant knew about the secret compartment or had even entered the home. Therefore, the state could not prove actual or constructive possession, and the defendant’s conviction was reversed.

If you are charged with illegal possession of contraband, contact an experienced criminal law attorney immediately. An attorney can review your case for its best possible defense. As with most crimes, the state must prove each element of an offense. Can they prove that you had exclusive control over the premises where the contraband was found?

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

(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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