Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

Facing a charge of possession of drug paraphernalia carries significant potential consequences in the state of California. In fact, the penalties accompanying a conviction on this charge are stiffer than those stemming from personal possession of controlled substances. California punishes this crime as a misdemeanor that carries possible jail time and fines. If law enforcement has arrested you on this charge, it is imperative that you obtain skilled representation from an experienced drug paraphernalia possession lawyer.

If you are currently charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, take an important step toward your defense by allowing our team at Spolin Law P.C. to investigate the facts of your case, inform you of your rights, and develop an effective defense to fight your charges. To set up a free case review with a Los Angeles drug attorney, call us today at (310) 424-5816 or fill out our online contact form.

Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Defined

Drug paraphernalia can include any instrument or device that may be used to smoke, inject, or otherwise consume an illegal drug. According to California Health and Safety Code 11364, it is unlawful in the state to possess “an opium pipe or any device, contrivance, instrument, or paraphernalia used for unlawfully injecting or smoking a controlled substance.”

Common Types of Drug Paraphernalia

  • Bongs
  • Pipes
  • Hypodermic needles
  • Syringes
  • Spoons
  • Rolling papers
  • Roach clips
  • Tourniquets

California has an exception to the possession of drug paraphernalia law. Before 2021, it is legal to possess syringes or hypodermic needles if you use them exclusively for your own personal use, and you have obtained them from a pharmacist, physician, syringe or needle exchange program, or other source authorized by state law to provide needles or sterile syringes without a prescription. This exception was instituted to help prevent the spread of HIV and other diseases transferred via blood among those who use injectable drugs such as heroin.

A skilled drug paraphernalia possession attorney can provide you with a vigorous defense against your charges as well as keep you informed about the details of drug paraphernalia statutes in California and how they pertain to your case.

Excluded from the possession of drug paraphernalia law are forms of paraphernalia that are used to manufacture and/or package drugs — these include bags, scales, balloons, and capsules. These items are usually recognized as evidence with an “intent to sell” charge rather than possession.

What Prosecutors Must Prove for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

The government must prove these elements of your case in order to find you guilty of possession of drug paraphernalia per HSC 11364(a):

  • You illegally possessed an item that may be used to unlawfully consume or inject a controlled substance
  • You knew that the item was, in fact, drug paraphernalia
  • You knew that the item was usable for purposes of unlawfully consuming or injecting a controlled substance

Possible Penalties for Possession of Drug Paraphernalia

As a misdemeanor in California, possession of drug paraphernalia carries potential penalties upon conviction that include:

  • Maximum of six months in county jail
  • Maximum fine of $1,000
  • Probation for three years
  • Requirement to complete community service and/or drug counseling

The services of a seasoned drug paraphernalia possession lawyer are essential in order to minimize the penalties or, if possible, avoid a conviction.

Additional consequences of a conviction include:

  • Having a permanent criminal record
  • Difficulty finding employment
  • Difficulty obtaining rental housing
  • Possibility of losing your professional license

Legal Defenses to Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Charges

A skilled drug paraphernalia attorney can utilize the most applicable defense in your case. Some of the common defenses used in these cases include:

Lack of Knowledge

The element of knowledge may work in your favor in one of several ways:

  1. You were unaware of the presence of the paraphernalia object
  2. You were unaware the object was used for consuming or ingesting a controlled substance
  3. Another person left the object in your home or in your vehicle without your knowledge

Lack of Possession

The burden of proof is on the government to demonstrate you were in possession of the paraphernalia. Prosecutors can attempt to prove this in three ways:

  • Actual possession — the object was found in your vehicle or on your person
  • Constructive possession — you were in control of the right to control the drug paraphernalia
  • Joint possession — you and another person were jointly in possession of the paraphernalia

An experienced drug paraphernalia possession lawyer can develop a defense on your behalf against any one of these possession theories the prosecution may apply against you.

The Object is Misidentified as Paraphernalia

Although an instrument or device appears to have a purpose connected with the consumption or injection of illegal drugs, this may not necessarily be the case. It may be a tool used to administer a prescription to your pet or for some other purpose.

Authorized Possession

The possession of syringes or hypodermic needles is authorized when:

  • Prior to your arrest, you were given a valid prescription or provided with authorization from a licensed physician
  • You possessed the syringes or needles for personal use only
  • You possessed a maximum of 10 syringes or needles

Miranda Violation

If law enforcement failed to inform you of your Miranda rights, some or all of your statements during your detainment by law enforcement may be ordered suppressed or inadmissible as evidence.

Illegal Search or Seizure

If law enforcement conducted an illegal search of your home, vehicle, or person, or if they lacked reasonable suspicion or probable cause prior to your detention, your drug paraphernalia possession lawyer may file a motion to suppress some or all of the evidence against you.

Drug Diversion

Your prior criminal history will help determine whether you have eligibility to participate in a drug diversion program. Upon participation, you will be required to enter a plea of guilty or nolo contendere (no contest) to the charges against you. Your probation will have as a condition the completion of a drug rehabilitation program. You will likely be required to submit to drug testing as part of your probation as well.

Upon completion of the drug diversion program, your paraphernalia possession charges will be dropped. If you failed to complete the program, the judge has the option to order you to serve jail time.

Contact Spolin Law P.C. for Skilled Drug Paraphernalia Possession Defense

Were you arrested for possessing drug paraphernalia in California? If so, you need a seasoned drug paraphernalia possession attorney to review the facts of your case and develop a shrewd defense to minimize the potential consequences, or have your case dropped completely. At Spolin Law P.C., we can provide you with the strong legal advocacy you need at this time.

Get started with a free consultation. Call us today at (310) 424-5816 or send us an email through our contact form.