What is the standard of proof to prove criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt in a joint constructive possession case?

UPDATED: Jun 29, 2012

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What is the standard of proof to prove criminal intent beyond a reasonable doubt in a joint constructive possession case?

Let’s say someone is charged with illegal downloads (e.g. illegal music, obscene videos) and the only evidence is instant message conversations that may indicate who was using the computer at the time the downloading of the files occurred or viewed. Although the evidence may have probative value and be presumptively admissible in court, would more evidence be needed to show intent beyond a reasonable doubt? Would there be joint constructive possession issues as multiple people had access to the computer and lived on the premises of where the computer was found?

Asked on June 29, 2012 under Criminal Law, Pennsylvania


Andrew Goldberg

Answered 10 years ago | Contributor

Yes, there would be an issue as toconstructive possession. However, one or more defendants can be foudng guilty on a theory of joint constructive possession. The Commonwealth must prove that you had the power or ability to control and intended to exercise that control. Your argument would be, just that, there were multiple occupants or tenants residing in the house, all having equal access to the computer. But, If the instant messages demonstrate that you were ( beyond a reasonable doubt ) using the computer at the time of rhe file downloading, that is very damaging ( incriminating ) evidence.

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