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Possession means the ownership, control, or occupancy of any object, asset, or property, by a person.

Cases such as this one from Missouri, explain that “possession is defined as the detention and control, or the manual or ideal custody, of anything which may be the subject of property, for one's use and enjoyment, either as owner or as the proprietor of a qualified right in it, and either held personally or by another who exercises it in one's place and name.”

The two most common types of possession are:         

  1. Actual possession, also called possession in fact, is used to describe immediate physical contact. This case from New York, explains that “actual possession is what most of us think of as possession—that is, having physical custody or control of an object.”
  2. This case from the Eleventh Circuit, explains that constructive possession, also called possession in law, exists when a person has knowledge of an object plus the ability to control the object, even when the person has no physical contact with it. Constructive possession is often used in criminal cases. 

[Last updated in July of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]