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What Is Drug Paraphernalia?

by Lindsay Chambers

Under California Health and Safety Code section 11364, it is against the law to possess any device or object used for illegally inhaling, smoking, ingesting, injecting or otherwise consuming a controlled substance. These items all fall under the broad category of drug paraphernalia. Even harmless everyday household objects like spoons and lighters can meet the criteria of being drug paraphernalia if someone uses them to abuse illicit drugs.

Drug Paraphernalia Definition

In California, possession of drug paraphernalia is a criminal misdemeanor potentially punishable by up to six months in county jail and fines totaling up to $1,000. If a judge and jury find you guilty of this crime, you will have a permanent drug-related offense on your record that will show up on background checks and adversely affect all parts of your life, including your ability to maintain meaningful employment and apply for loans.

While needles and syringes are classic examples of drug paraphernalia, you can legally possess them if you take vital prescription drugs via injection and obtain these items from an authorized source like a doctor or pharmacy. Meanwhile, paraphernalia used to make or package drugs – such as chemicals, scales or baggies – usually results in a felony charge of possession with intent to sell.

How to Defend a Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Charge

In a drug paraphernalia case, a prosecutor must prove either actual or constructive possession to convict you. They must also have evidence to show you knowingly used the item to take illegal drugs.

Experienced attorneys can use several defenses when representing your case in court.

  • Legal authorization to possess hypodermic needles for self-administering prescription medication
  • Lack of knowledge, control or possession
  • Police officers’ failure to follow procedures, such as an illegal search and seizure that violated your constitutional rights

Are You Eligible for Drug Diversion as an Alternative to Sentencing?

To rehabilitate first-time offenders instead of sending them to jail, California has created a drug diversion program. Your possession of drug paraphernalia case may be eligible for this alternative if:

  • You have no previous drug convictions on your record.
  • Your possession of paraphernalia charge does not involve violence or threats.
  • Your case doesn’t entail evidence of another narcotics violation not eligible for diversion.
  • You haven’t had probation or parole revoked.
  • You haven’t completed a diversion program or been convicted of a felony within the last five years.

If a judge allows you to complete a drug diversion program, you must usually plead guilty to the offense. However, rather than serving time in jail, you’ll have the opportunity to complete a substance abuse treatment program to get your life back on a healthy path. Once you do so and meet any other terms of your agreement, a judge will dismiss the charge.

By participating in a drug diversion program, you can avoid having a criminal record, which will benefit you when applying for jobs, enrolling in school or renting property.

Contact the Law Office of Ronald G. Brower Today

If you face drug offense charges in Southern California, you need representation from a qualified defense attorney who has practiced law for more than four decades and knows all the ins and outs of criminal court. Schedule your consultation today to discuss your case, and let us give you the respect and attention you deserve.  

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