The Fourth Department, reversing defendant’s possession of a controlled substance conviction and dismissing the indictment, determined defendant’s constructive possession of the drugs was not demonstrated. There was no proof defendant exercised dominion and control over the area in which the drugs were found, as opposed to merely being present in the vicinity of the drugs:
Where there is no evidence that the defendant actually possessed the controlled substance, the People are required to establish that the defendant “exercised ‘dominion or control’ over the property by a sufficient level of control over the area in which the contraband is found or over the person from whom the contraband is seized” … . The People may establish constructive possession by circumstantial evidence … , but a defendant’s mere presence in the area in which contraband is discovered is insufficient to establish constructive possession … . People v Mighty, 2022 NY Slip Op 01923, Fourth Dept 3-18-18
Practice Point: If a defendant does not physically possess the drugs, to prove constructive possession, the People must demonstrate the defendant exercised dominion and control over the area where the drugs were found, perhaps by proving defendant resided there, for example.