Possession is Nine Points of the Law Law & Legal Definition


Possession means holding property in one’s power or the exercise of dominion over property. By having possession one exercises control over something to the exclusion of all others.

The saying “possession is nine points of the law” is an old common law precept that means one who has physical control or possession over the property is clearly at an advantage or is in a better possession than a person who has no possession over the property. Even if a person is the rightful owner of the property but has no possession over it, the person who is in possession will be in a better position should the property ever be subject to challenge. This is especially true with adverse possession. However mere possession alone does not grant the possessor rights in the property superior to those of the actual owner. This adage “possession is nine tenths of the law” is not a law but a logical rule of force that has been recognized across ages.

In re Garza, 984 S.W.2d 344, 347 (Tex. App. 1998), Texas court has held that “Despite the old saying that "possession is 9/10ths of the law," mere possession and whatever right to the property that comes with mere possession does not grant the possessor rights in the property superior to those of the actual owner. J. CRIBBET, PRINCIPLES OF THE LAW OF PROPERTY 12-13 (1962); R. BOYER, SURVEY OF THE LAW OF PROPERTY 679-80 (1981). In other words, there is a hierarchy of ownership, as reflected both in the common law and § 1.07(35)(a) of the Penal Code. One in possession of chattel has a greater right to it than one who lacks both possession and title. Yet, one who has title maintains a greater right over the chattel than 1) one who simply has possession and 2) one who has neither possession nor claim of ownership. Id. Indeed, it can be said that the title owner has the greatest rights to the property. With that greatest right comes the power to negate the authority of those with lesser right. Similarly, those who stand in the lesser position lack the power to override or negate the rights of the title owner.”