Possession – the detention or use of a physical thing with the intent to hold it as one’s own

possession:
(14c.)

1. The fact of having or holding property in one’s power; the exercise of dominion over property.

2. The right under which one may exercise control over something to the exclusion of all others; the continuing exercise of a claim to the exclusive use of a material object.

3. Civil law. The detention or use of a physical thing with the intent to hold it as one’s own.

4. (usually plural) Something that a person owns or controls; PROPERTY (2).

5. A territorial dominion of a state or country.

     “[A]s the name of Possession is… one of the most important in our books, so it is one of the most ambiguous. Its legal senses (for they are several) overlap the popular sense, & even the popular sense includes the assumption of matters of fact which are not always easy to verify. In common speech a man is said to possess or to be in possession of anything of which hs has the apparent control, or from the use of which he has the apparent power of excluding others… [A]ny of the usual outward marks of ownership may suffice, in the absence of manifest power in someone else, to denote as having possession the person to whom they attach. Law takes this popular conception as a provisional groundwork, *& builds up on it the ntion of possession in a technical sense, as a definition legal relation to something capable of having an owner, which relation is distinct separable both from real & from apparent ownership, though often concurrent with one or both of them.

  • Frederick Pollock & Robert Samuel Wright, An Essay on Possession in the common Law 1-2 (1888)

      “In the whole range of legal theory there is no conception more difficult than that of possession. The Roman lawyers brought their usual acumen to the analysis of it, & since their day the problem has formed the subject of a voluminous literature, while it still continues to tax the engenuity of jurists. Nor is the question oe of the mere curiosity or scientific interest, for its practical importance is not less than its difficulty. The legal consequences which flow from the acquisition & loss of possession are many & serious. Possession, for example, is evidence of ownership; the the possessor of a thing is presumed to be the owner of it, & may put all other claimants to proof of their title.

  • John Salmond, Jurisprudence 285 (Glanville L. Williams ed., 10th ed. 1947)

Definition of ADVERSE POSSESSION:

(18c.) 1. The enjoyment of real property with a claim of right when that enjoyment is opposed to another person’s claim & is continuous, exclusive, hostile, open, & notorious. Also termed adverse dominion, though not considered an unlawful form of adverse dominion. Cf. PRESCRIPTION (5). 2. The doctrine by which title to real property is acquired as a result of such use or enjoyment over a specified period of time. See POSSESSION.

Definition of CONSTRUCTIVE ADVERSE POSSESSION:

“(1823) 1. A type of Adverse possession (as defined in definition “1.” in the above definition) in which the claim arises from the claimant’s payment of taxes under color of right rather than by actual possession of the land.”

Definition of PRESCRIPTION:

“3. The effect of a lapse of time in creating & destroying rights. 4. The extinction of a title or right by failure to claim or exercise it over a long period. – Also termed negative prescription; extinctive prescription. 5. The acquisition of title to a thing (esp. an intangible thing such as the use of real property) by open & continuous possession over a statutory period. — Also termed positive prescription; acquisitive prescription. Cf. PERIOD OF PRESCRIPTION.

    “Prescription— which originally signified any exception, but came latterly to be especially identified with the exceptio ratione temporis (“rule of exception due to a plea of freedom from claims in law, that plea being founded on a presumption of the pursuer’s consent & long period of having chosen not to object”)— is a plea which may be employed for the purpose either of extinguishing or of establishing a right of property. The manifest desirability of ‘fixing & ascertaining property’, & of preventing forgeries, has procured it a place in the municipal code of all human societies.

  • J.H. Miller, A Handbook of Prescription 1 (1893)4

Definition of PRESCRIPTIVE:

“adj. (17c.) 1. Expressing what must or should be done <prescriptive legal instruments> 2. Based on or determined by ancient custom or long-standing use; having existed for so long as to have become a matter of right <prescriptive easement>.”5

Definition of PERIOD OF PRESCRIPTION:

“(18c) The period fixed by local law as sufficient for obtaining or extinguishing a right through lapse of time. In addition to a fixed number of years, the period includes whatever further time is allowed by local law because of infancy, insanity, coverture, and other like circumstances. See PRESCRIPTIVE RIGHT.”

Definition of PRESCRIPTIVE RIGHT:

“(17c.) A right obtained by prescription <after a nuisance has been continuously in existence for 20 years, a prescriptive right to continue it is acquired as an easement appurtenant to the land on which it exists>.”6

Definition of ACTUAL POSSESSION:

“(16c.) Physical occupancy or control over property.”

Definition of CORPOREAL POSSESSION:

“(18c.) Possession of a material object, such as a farm or a coin. — Also termed natural possession; possessio corporis.”

Definition of NATURAL POSSESSION:

“(16c.) Civil law. The exercise of physical detention or control over a thing, as by occupying a building or cultivating farmland. Natural possession may be had without title, & may give rise to a claim of unlawful possession or a claim of ownership by acquisitive prescription. — Also termed possessio naturalis.”

Definition of POSSESSIO NATURALIS:

“[Latin ‘natural possession’] (1838) Roman law. The simple holding of a thing, often under a contract, with no intent of keeping it permanently. This type of possession exists when the possessor’s holding of the object is limited by a recognition of another person’s outstanding right. The holder may be usufructuary, a bailee, or a servant. — Also termed naturalis possessio; nuda detentio; detentio; possession in fact. Cf. Possessio civilis.”

Definition of LAWFUL POSSESSION:

“(16c.) 1. Possession based on a good-faith belief in & claim of ownership. 2. Possession granted by the property owner to the possessor.”

Definition of POSSESSIO CIVILIS:

“[Latin] (17c.) Roman law. Legal possession; that is, possession accompanied by an intent to hold it as one’s own. — Also termed possession in law. See possessory interdict under INTERDICT (1); USUCAPIO; possession in law.”

Definition of POSSESSION IN LAW:

“(16c.) 1. Possession that is recognized by the law either because it is a specific type of possession in fact or because the law for some special reason attributes the advantages & results of possession to someone who does not in fact possess. 2. See constructive possession..”

“There is no conception which will include all that amounts to possession in law, & will include nothing else, & it is impossible to frame any definition from which the concrete law of possession can be logically deduced.”

  • John Salmond, Jurisprudence 287 (Glanville L. Williams ed. 10th ed. 1947)

Definition of CONSTRUCTIVE POSSESSION:

“(18c.) 2.) Civil law. Possession by operation of law of an entirety by virtue of corporeal possession of a part. When a possessor holds title to a property & physically possesses part of it, the law will deem the possessor to hold constructive possession of the rest of the property describe in the title. Also termed possessio fictitia; possession in law.”

Definition of DERIVATIVE POSSESSION:

“(1851) Lawful possession by one who does not own title.”

Definition of EXCLUSIVE POSSESSION:

“(18c.) The exercise of exclusive dominion over property, including the use & benefit of the property.”

Definition of HOSTILE POSSESSION:

“(1812) Possession asserted against the claims of all others, especially the record owner.”

Definition of NOTORIOUS POSSESSION:

“(18c.) Possession or control that is evident to others; possession of property that, because it is generally known by people in the area where the property is located, gives rise to a presumption that the actual owner has notice of it. Notorious possession is one element o adverse possession. — Also termed open possession; open & notorious possession.”

Definition of PEDAL POSSESSION:

“(1839) Actual possession, as by living on the land or by improving it. This term usually appears in adverse-possession contexts.”

Definition of POSSESSION AMINO DOMINI:

“(1830) Civil law. Possession with the intent to own a thing, movable or immovable; possession as an owner.”

Definition of POSSESSION BY RELATION OF LAW:

“(1830) A person’s legally recognized possession of land despite the person’s not having actual possession after being improperly or unlawfully dispossessed by another.”

Definition of PEDIS POSSESSIO:

“[LATIN] (1816) A foothold; an actual possession of real property, implying either actual occupancy or enclosure or use. — Also termed substantial possession.”

Definition of POSSESSION OF A RIGHT:

“(17c.) The continuing exercise & enjoyment of a right. This type of possession is often unrelated to an ownership interest in property. For example, a criminal defendant possesses the right to demand a trial by jury. — Also termed possessio juris or INCORPOREAL POSSESSION.”

Definition of INCORPOREAL POSSESSION:

“(1964) Possession of something other than a material object, such as an easement over a neighbor’s land, or the access of light to the windows of a house. — Also termed possessio juris or quasi-possession.”

“It is a question much debated whether incorporeal possession is in reality true possession at all. Some are of opinion that all genuine possession is corporeal, & that the other is related to it by way of analogy merely. They maintain that there is no single generic conception which includes possessio corporis & possessio juris as its two specific forms. The Roman lawyers speak with hesitation & even inconsistency on this point. They sometimes include both forms under the title of possessio, while at other times they are careful to quality incorporeal possession, as quasi possessio— something which is not true possession, but is analogous to it. The question is one of little difficulty, but the opinion here accepted is that the two forms do in truth belong to a single genus. The true idea of possession is wider than that of corporeal possession, just as the true idea of ownership is wider than that of corporeal ownership.”

  • John Salmond, Jurisprudence 288-289 (Glanville L. Williams ed. 10th ed. 1947)

Definition of PRECARIOUS POSSESSION:

“(1831) Civil law. Detention of property by someone other than the owner or possessor on behalf of or with permission of the owner or possessor. A lessee has precarious possession of the leased property.”

“[Article 3437 of the Louisiana Civil Code defines precarious possession as] ‘exercise or possession over a thing with the permission of or on behalf of the owner or possessor’. The definition indicates the difference between possession in the proper sense of the word & precarious possession, that is, detention. Possessor is one who possesses as owner, whereas a precarious possessor or detainer is one who exercises factual authority over a thing with the permission of or on behalf of another person”

  • A.N. Yiannopoulos, Property: The Law of Things — Real Rights — Real Actions § 319, at 629 (4th ed. 2001)7

1” “page 1739

2Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition page 406

3“ “ page 65

4” “page 1373

5“ “ page1374

6“ “ page 1321

7Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition 1351-1353

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