It may not come as a surprise to know that a person can face criminal charges for possessing illegal drugs or unauthorized prescription drugs. It may come as a surprise to find out that a person can face charges for drug paraphernalia even if he or she does have any controlled substances.
Possession of drug paraphernalia is a separate charge. It is typically less severe than possession of controlled substances, but possessing both drugs and paraphernalia can lead to harsher penalties.
What does paraphernalia consist of?
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, paraphernalia is a pretty broad category. It consists of any equipment used in the consumption, production or concealment of illicit drugs. Bongs, pipes, rolling papers and freebase kits are all examples of paraphernalia. Paraphernalia can also include items that appear to have a legitimate use, such as scales or miniature spoons.
What are characteristics of paraphernalia?
Sometimes paraphernalia draws attention to itself with bright colors or decorative designs. This is a marketing technique intended to appeal to certain demographics by glamorizing their products.
However, it is also common to package and market paraphernalia in a way that disguises its true purpose. Manufacturers may try to thread the needle, marketing eye-catching products to appeal to certain demographics while disavowing their true purpose with a disclaimer that they are only for tobacco use — which, of course, is legal.
Possession of paraphernalia is illegal under federal law. However, it can be difficult to secure a conviction, especially in the absence of actual drugs, because so many pieces of paraphernalia also have uses that are legitimate under the law. The case may hinge upon context, e.g., disparate pieces of paraphernalia in association with one another where they typically would not have legitimate uses in combination.