In California, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction, which subjects individuals to a $100 fine (though this amount can be increased with additional fees). Possession of a larger amount is a misdemeanor punishable with a $500 fine and up to six months in jail.
But what does it mean to "possess" marijuana under California law? The paradigmatic case of possession is where a person is holding the marijuana or has it in his or her pocket. This is what is called "actual" possession, i.e. physical possession.
But an individual can be convicted of marijuana possession even if he does not physically possess it, so long as he exercises dominion or control over it. This "constructive" possession refers to situations where the individual had control over the marijuana without physical possession. If marijuana is found in a person's car or room, the legal doctrine of constructive possession allows the person to be charged with marijuana possession.
Multiple people can be charged with possession of the same marijuana under the doctrine of "joint" possession. This simply means that more than one person had actual or constructive possession. An example of joint possession is where marijuana is found in the shared living space of two roommates.
It should be noted that the facts and circumstances of each case make it hard to drawn clear lines for when a person will be in actual, constructive, or joint possession. There are a number of factors that could influence whether a person will be found to have been in possession of marijuana.
At the Law Office of Nicolai Cocis, we represent individuals charged with criminal offenses, including possession of marijuana for personal use or for sell. Our office is located near the Southwest Justice Center in Murrieta, California. If you or a loved one has been arrested in Temecula, Hemet, Lake Elsinore, Corona or Riverside and are in need of representation, please contact us for a free consultation.