Drug Paraphernalia Charges and Ways to Defeat Them
Jennifer decided to have some friends over to the house while her parents were out of town for the weekend. Unfortunately, her friends invited friends who tweeted other friends who messaged their Facebook friends — so several hundred people crashed what was supposed to be a quiet get-together. Not only was the house trashed, but the annoyed neighbors called the police to complain about the noise. In breaking up the party, officers discovered drug paraphernalia in the form of a pipe with a pungent residue next to a baggie with a scattering of seeds and leaves. The 18-year-old party hostess suddenly found herself charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.
What is drug paraphernalia?
Pennsylvania law defines drug paraphernalia as any equipment, product or material used to grow, harvest, cultivate, package, process, compound, manufacture, store, contain, conceal, prepare, ingest, inhale, or inject an illegal controlled substance. Some items are innocent dual-use objects, such as the ubiquitous sandwich bag — innocent when wrapped around a sandwich but considered drug paraphernalia when wrapped around a lid of marijuana.
There are several defenses to drug paraphernalia charges:
- No actual possession — The person charged did not actually have the paraphernalia on their person, such as in a pants pocket, a jacket or a purse.
- No constructive possession — The person charged was not aware of the presence of the paraphernalia or that it was of a nature to be used for drugs, and did not intend nor was able to take control of the paraphernalia.
- Authorization — The police find drugs and syringes in the house but learn the homeowner has a valid prescription for syringes.
Even if a person has no legal defense to drug paraphernalia charges, first-time offenders have the opportunity to rid themselves of this charge through Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition (ARD), a diversionary program that allows enrollees to complete community service hours, drug treatment or other probationary conditions for up to two years without admitting guilt. The criminal charges are dismissed upon satisfactory completion of the conditions.
The maximum drug paraphernalia penalties are one year in jail and a $2,500 fine, and a conviction will leave you with a lifelong criminal record. Before deciding how to proceed, first consult with a resourceful and experienced Berks Country drug paraphernalia defense attorney to ensure your rights are protected.