What is Illegal Possession?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Images By:, Sam Felder, Alexander Raths
  • Last Modified Date: 03 February 2020
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Illegal possession is a term used to describe having the actual possession of an item or substance without having the legal right to possess that item. The term is often used in law enforcement circles and may relate to the possession of drugs without a prescription, the possession of some type of firearm or weapon without having the proper authorization to carry the items, or even the possession of a controlled substance that is strictly forbidden by current laws. In most jurisdictions, law enforcement officers have the right to arrest individuals who are found to be in illegal possession of drugs or firearms, with criminal charges usually being the result.


Many nations have restrictions on who may be allowed to carry firearms in public, or even who may own firearms in general. Typically, this means that individuals wishing to own guns or other types of firearms will file for legal permits from local jurisdictions. Within the scope of those permits, specific privileges are granted regarding that ownership. For example, an individual may receive authorization to own a gun, but not to carry the gun while in a public place, such as a shopping mall, or to keep the gun in his or her vehicle. Should a law enforcement officer stop the individual and find he or she does not have a permit for the gun, or that the permit does not allow carrying the weapon in a public setting, the officer is likely to arrest the individual on the basis of possession charges. Depending on current laws, the result may be heavy fines or a jail sentence.

The same general approach applies to different types of medication or controlled substances. Individuals who are found in the possession of prescription medication but cannot prove they have a properly issued prescription for that medication may be subject to arrest. The same is true when it comes to illegal substances that are banned from use by current state or federal laws. For example, an individual found with a certain amount of marijuana on his or her person may be charged with illegal possession of the drug, and face criminal charges. At the same time, someone who is found to have a controlled substance such as anti-anxiety medication or anti-depressants and cannot prove that a doctor has issued a prescription for those medications would also be considered guilty of illegal possession.

Illegal possession of drugs and firearms are serious crimes in many countries around the world. Repeat offenders are more likely to face time in prison rather than fines. In addition, the amount of illegal substances found in the possession of the individual will also often have an impact on the type of punishment that is received. For example, minute quantities of certain controlled substances may lead to fines and possibly probation, whereas the possession of larger quantities would lead to time spent in a jail or prison facility.


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